Chris Vein

B’more Open: Is Baltimore the new San Francisco?

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signs executive order creating the city's first open data initiative.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signs executive order creating the city's first open data initiative.

From open data to open source procurement policy to open311, San Francisco has led the open government way, but with the recent departures of former mayor Gavin Newsom (now California lieutenant governor) and former chief information officer Chris Vein, it looks as if Baltimore is on its way to becoming the new San Francisco.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and new Chief Information Officer Rico Singleton recently announced the city’s first open data initiative, OpenBaltimore (powered by Socrata), to “increase transparency and improve the level of trust between the people and their government.”

On the heels of this announcement, the Baltimore Sun reports Baltimore city council members have proposed drafting a panel of residents to choose candidates for empty seats, giving citizens a direct role in the city’s democratic process.

Rawlings-Blake is even starting to sound like an open government mayor:

“With OpenBaltimore, the city government will begin sharing data with the public in an unprecedented way,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Innovative and creative people will now be able to collaborate with government, and hopefully find ways to improve service delivery and save money for taxpayers.”

Video of Rawlings-Blake announcing and signing the executive order creating Baltimore’s open data initiative:

While these aren’t ground-breaking initiatives, it shows potential for a city that doesn’t normally get recognized for innovation and technology. This is a great first step.

Let’s hope B’more’s new open government motto is ‘B’more Open.’

Side note: Mayor Rawlings-Blake, if you’re reading, get Baltimore to Code for America.

SF CIO Vein discusses open government, open data, municipal innovation

I had the opportunity to sit down with San Francisco Chief Information Officer Chris Vein during sf.govfresh and ask him about his work around open government, open data and government innovation. What resonates most with me is how he touches on the importance of a partnership between mayor and CIO and SF Mayor Gavin Newsom’s willingness to let him ‘fail forward.’

We’d see more government innovation if leaders were like Newsom and let their staff experiment with technology, especially open source and free Web-based tools where the cost to taxpayers is minimal at best.

Here’s the full interview:

Fresh wrap: sf.govfresh

San Francisco CIO Chris Vein speaks at sf.govfresh, Sept. 1, 2010

Public servants, developers and entrepreneurs gathered together to discuss and learn about the civic value of open data and how the City of San Francisco and private citizens are leveraging this opportunity at sf.govfresh, Sept. 1, at Adobe Systems’ San Francisco offices. Speakers included San Francisco Chief Information Officer Chris Vein, Mom Maps Founder & CEO Jill Seman, San Francisco Department of Technology Director of Innovation Jay Nath, Stamen Partner Michal Migurski, Routesy Founder Steven Peterson and SF Environment Internet Communications Coordinator Lawrence Grodeska.

Watch the entire playback here. Presentation videos are also posted below.

Be sure to read Adriel Hampton’s review at OpenSF or see the #sfgf hashtag for the Twitter discussion around the event.

Special thanks to Adobe for hosting and sponsoring the event. This was GovFresh’s first event, and we couldn’t have asked for a better partner and supporter. I firmly believe fostering true community through events such as sf.govfresh is where industry needs to invest more of its outreach budget.

Video presentations

Chris Vein, CIO, San Francisco (Part 1):

Chris Vein, CIO, San Francisco (Part 2):

Jay Nath, Director of Innovation, San Francisco:

Steven Peterson, Routesy:

Lawrence Grodeska, SF Environment:

Michal Migurski, Stamen Design + Crimespotting:

Jill Seman, Mom Maps (Part 1):

Jill Seman, Mom Maps (Part 2):

Open Q&A with Chris Vein, CIO, San Francisco:

Presentations

Here’s a few of the presentations slides.

Open311 API‘ (Jay Nath, Director of Innovation, San Francisco):

EcoFinder Open Data, Open Source, Open Collaboration (Lawrence Grodeska, SF Environment):

An open source union movement

Earlier this year, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ignited an open source movement in government when the city approved the nation’s first open source software policy. Now, another movement — labor may be getting behind this effort. I have been asked to speak with Local 21 of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE/AFL-CIO) today about Gov 2.0 initiatives I helped lead for Newsom and why unions should embrace open source technology.

Open source saves union jobs

San Francisco’s legislation came about from a combination of factors, but the primary one was the City wanted to save money without laying off employees. Reducing the millions of dollars that were being spent on software licensing fees and other proprietary software was a no brainer for city leaders facing a half a billion-dollar budget deficit.

The first-of-its-kind policy requires that open source be considered equally to commercial products when buying new software. Instead of paying software-licensing fees year after year, under the direction of the City’s CIO, Chris Vein, and the Department of Technology the City opted to train employees with new skills.

San Francisco decided to invest in people and a new open source government.

It all started with a tweet

Last week, former Local 21 President Richard Isen (an app developer for the City of San Francisco) and I were talking about what I should talk about later today. He reminded me how the open source movement in San Francisco government started with a tweet.

Eighteen months ago, Mayor Newsom was at Twitter headquarters for a conversation about technology in government. During the town hall Newsom received a tweet about a pothole. He turned to Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams and said let’s find a way for people to tweet their service requests directly to San Francisco’s 311 customer service center.

Three months later, San Francisco launched the first Twitter 311 service, @SF311 allowing residents to tweet, text, and send photos of potholes and other requests directly to the City. As it turns out, Isen was the app developer on the project.

Working with Twitter and using the open source platform, CoTweet Isen turned @SF311 into reality. Normally, the software procurement process for something like this would have taken months. Instead from idea to implementation it took less than three months. Oh and the latest reports show @SF311 is saving the city money in call center costs.

Security in open source

Craig of Craigslist always reminds me when talking about open source to highlight the added security and stability of open source over proprietary software. I won’t get into it here but I recommend reading Sun Microsystems President & COO Bill Vass’ blog about the topic, “The No. 1 Reason to Move to Open Source is to IMPROVE Security.”

Unions for open source

Since the launch of @SF311, San Francisco has continued to utilize open source software to expand city services while reducing costs and implementation times from DataSF.org to the first national API for government. Meanwhile, open source legislation has spread from California to Vermont.

Unions should join the Gov 2.0 effort and make the open source movement their own. Demanding that more local governments pass open source legislation will save taxpayers money and protect union jobs.

Kundra, SF officials promote Open311 API

Here’s video from yesterday’s Open311 press conference in San Francisco, including Vivek Kundra, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, SF CIO Chris Vein and O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly.

Kundra’s Open311 comments from the White House blog:

This is a great approach that ties together efforts in San Francisco, Boston, the District of Columbia, Portland, and Los Angeles to open more services to citizens, and to use data to drive progress in people’s lives. Too often, people grumble that their complaints about government – be it city, county, state, or federal – get swallowed by the bureaucracy. Open 311 is an answer to that problem, placing the role of service evaluator and service dispatcher in the power of citizens’ hands. Through this approach, new web applications can mash publicly available, real-time data from the cities to allow people to track the status of repairs or improvements, while also allowing them to make new requests for services. For instance, I can use the same application to report a broken parking meter when I’m home in the District of Columbia or traveling to cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco. This is the perfect example of how government is simplifying access to citizen services. Open 311 is an innovation that will improve people’s lives and make better use of taxpayer dollars.

Video:

Gov 2.0 guide to San Francisco

San Francisco is one of a few major U.S. cities leading the way in the open government, Gov 2.0 movement. SF has opened up data, issued an agency-wide open government directive and continues to pursue innovative opportunities around this effort. (See all SF news at sf.govfresh.com)

Here’s an overview:

San Francisco’s Open Data Executive Directive

On October 21, 2009, Mayor Gavin Newsom issued SF’s Open Data Executive Directive that states:

The City and County of San Francisco will be able to engage our innovative high-tech workforce by releasing data, a key component of San Francisco’s future economic development. By providing government data that adheres to privacy and security policies, San Francisco’s world class technology community is given the platform from which to create useful civic tools, all at no cost to City government. By bringing City data and San Francisco’s entrepreneurs together, we can effectively leverage existing resources to stimulate industry, create jobs and highlight San Francisco’s creative culture and attractiveness as a place to live and work. Finally, the City and County of San Francisco’s technology presence will begin to reflect that of our world class, cutting edge private technology sector, and help us better engage the wealth of knowledge and skills of our local community.

(See also San Francisco’s open data directive and SF mayor Newsom addresses open government plan to department heads)

Newsom and others discuss launch of DataSF and the city’s open government initiative with city department heads:

DataSF

DataSF.org is SF’s open data site that provides “structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format.” Dataset categories include geography, admin & finance, environment, housing, human services, public safety, public works and transit.

(See also San Francisco’s DataSF launch)

Press conference announcing DataSF launch:

DataSF App Showcase

DataSF App Showcase highlights Web and mobile applications developed using the SF’s open data.

(See also San Francisco’s app showcase highlights civic innovation)

SF311

SF311 is SF’s citizen service call center that includes Twitter (@SF311).

Video from SFGTV:

SF on GovFreshTV

Francisco’s CIO Chris Vein answers the question ‘What does Gov 2.0 mean to you?’

SF Director of Innovation Jay Nath:

Related coverage

Gov 2.0 Radio:

[audio:gov20radio090719.mp3]

The Promise of Open Data: We talk with City of San Francisco CTO Blair Adams, SF innovations manager Jay Nath, and Web developer Tom Croucher about the open access to government data.

InformationWeek:

San Francisco’s DataSF launch

Here’s video from the August 2009 news conference announcing the launch of DataSF.org, San Francisco’s open data site, which provides “structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format.”

The press conference is attended by SF officials and technology entrepreneurs, including SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, SF CIO Chris Vein, SF Dept of Public Works Director Ed Reiskin, SF Director of Innovation Jay Nath, Tim O’Reilly and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. There’s a general Q&A that includes examples of how citizens and entrepreneurs are leveraging the newly-opened data.

For those working in local governments, this is a great overview of how citizens, local businesses and government officials are working together to make government more efficient and create economic opportunities for businesses simply by opening up public data.

Frankly, after watching this, I don’t see how more locales wouldn’t follow suit.