Jul 28 2014

Where San Francisco Open Data Is Headed in the Next Year

The city has released an ambitious strategic plan for making more data publicly available and allowing residents to access their personal data.

San Francisco isn’t a rookie when it comes to open data.

It was one of the first cities to create an open data policy, and a few months ago it established the role of chief data officer for the city and created a data coordinator position for each department.

While city and county officials don’t claim to have hit one out of the park yet with their contributions to the open data movement, a newly released strategic plan could change that over time.

The plan, called “Open Data in San Francisco: Institutionalizing an Initiative,” sets ambitious goals for releasing far more public data in a timely manner, improving the usability of city data and identifying innovative uses for data sets.

San Francisco was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. Open Data Census, based on the type and quality of its open data efforts, reports Government Technology. The Open Knowledge Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation and Code for America teamed up to review and rank dozens of cities. Boston and other cities are also ramping up their open data efforts, and a growing number of local and state governments are creating chief data officer positions.

But San Francisco doesn’t want to stop there. The city wants to create a process by which individuals can access their personal data that the city owns. The strategy doesn’t specify what types of data but noted that this complex process could take about a year to research and plan, considering that data exists across a wide network of systems and “interconnections from mainframe systems to cloud deployments,” according to the open data plan. Giving individuals access to their data will support data quality and privacy efforts, the city asserts.

The goal is to create a framework for protecting and sharing private data, including classifications for the data, based on risks associated with sharing that information. The plan also calls for a standard set of controls and rules for protecting data and using methods such as aggregation or anonymization if it’s appropriate to publish the data.

In its plan, San Francisco outlines six core goals for improving open data efforts over the next year: • to increase the number and timeliness of datasets on DataSF

  • to improve the usability of DataSF
  • to improve the usability, quality and consistency of the city’s data
  • to enable the use of confidential data, while appropriately protecting it
  • to support increased use of data in decision-making
  • to identify and foster innovations in open data and data use

Another part of the plan worth noting is the set of principles that San Francisco says will inform its open data work. It includes not striving endlessly for because something is better than nothing, and allowing for failure early and often but learning from those experiences.

You can read the entire plan here.