San Francisco Create More Transparency With OpenSF

In response to President Obama's call for transparency, San Francisco
laid out the OpenSF vision to create more transparency, collaboration and
participation within city and county government.

In response to President Obama's call for transparency, San Francisco
laid out the OpenSF vision to create more transparency, collaboration and
participation within city and county government. The OpenSF project has grown
to include many projects -- often at the suggestion of the community,
but always with the goal of building a platform for change and innovation.

As part of OpenSF, the city last year launched
to liberate more than 140 datasets and to enable the public to request new
datasets and rate those that were already available. Providing government
data to the public was our first step in making San Francisco more transparent
to citizens. Furnishing open data so the public can develop applications and
mash-ups helps municipalities improve services in difficult economic times.

Our goal is to be more than a transmitter of information, however; we want
to engage the public in a two-way conversation in the spirit of collaboration
and participation. San Francisco's Facebook page is a great example
of government engaging citizens by tapping a familiar tool they use in everyday
life and allowing for comments on the city's content.


Perhaps our most revolutionary Gov 2.0 project is Open311, in which we worked
with other municipalities, nonprofits and developers to design a common Application
Programming Interface that anyone could use to build applications to submit
non-emergency requests for municipal services.

Percentage of service requests made to the city of San Francisco via the
web, including Twitter, from January 2010 through April 2010

Opening up the ability to request city services and review historical data
on those requests is a significant change from the way government has traditionally
operated. In the past, we would have determined the need for mobile phone
applications that allowed the public to report issues, such as potholes or
graffiti, then we would have issued a Request for Proposals to solicit a qualified
contractor to build the application for the city, and only after many months
would we have a useable product and a new channel for requesting city services.

In contrast to this traditional process, in the first month after launching
Open311, we received more than 25 requests from the public to build applications
using the API.

Opening up government has led to a healthy competition among developers to
create great applications in relatively short time frames, at a low cost to
the city.

The Open311 initiative has reinforced the idea that government's role
is to create new channels for the public to request services, not necessarily
build the application to do so. By early June, developers had launched five
applications that allow citizens to submit requests for city services through
iPhone, Droid and BlackBerry mobile devices, Twitter clients and websites.
Clearly, we're changing the way citizens interact with city services.

As we continue on the OpenSF journey, we encourage the public to provide
the context for participation and transparency, and share feedback so that
we can continue to evolve our approach and goals.

Open311 Supporters

Some 70 individuals and organizations have pledged support for an open-standard
protocol for 311, including:

  • Steve Craig, director of constituent services, Somerville, Mass.
  • Kevin Crawford, assistant general manager, Los Angeles
  • Mark Greinke, CTO, Portland, Ore.
  • Nigel Jacob, senior adviser for emerging technology, Boston
  • Dmitry Kachaev, director of R&D, Washington, D.C.
  • Chris Moore, CIO, Edmonton, Canada
  • Rick Nixon, program manager, Portland, Ore.
  • Bill Schrier, CTO, Seattle
  • Daryl Springer, systems administrator/senior analyst, Buffalo, N.Y.
Jun 27 2010