Ed Lee

Superpublic wants to supercharge municipal government innovation

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique

Earlier this week, the City Innovate Foundation was joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, U.S. General Services Administration Administrator Denise Turner Roth and the U.S. Department of Commerce to announce a first-of-its-kind Innovation lab to solve urban problems and scale solutions at 50 United Nations Plaza — the birthplace of the U.N.

The 5,000 sq. ft. lab Superpublic unites under the same roof for the first time innovation teams from the private industry, federal, state and city government agencies and from universities. City Innovate Foundation staff will coordinate the activity of member organizations and put on programming that builds capacity among members to solve problems, prototype solutions and create innovative approaches to policies that accelerate change.

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique sat down with GovFresh to share how Superpublic will work and what’s next for the innovation lab down the hall from 18F.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Superpublic is a platform for public, private, and non-profit sectors to work together to address the most pressing challenges facing cities.

What problem(s) does Superpublic solve for government or residents/citizens?

To start, we expect to work on three main problems:

Digital services in government: More than ever before, residents now expect services to be available online. The development of new digital services is an opportunity to rethink how we deliver services to ensure every resident has the access they need. The City of SF is looking to replicate the success of 18F and U.S. Digital Service to create new teams within their respective organizations

Smart cities: How we move ourselves and goods around is rapidly changing. We can either embrace and shape these changes or be at the mercy of them. San Francisco has chosen to lead the way by putting people first in developing safer, more equitable and innovative solutions to transportation challenges. The City of SF is working with DOT, DOE, and DOC on advancing smart cities in San Francisco and nationally – specifically on mobility in the near term.

Performance-based procurement: How do we make sure that the money spent by the government delivers tangible results? How can we use procurement terms to cut cycle time and/or improve quality? We will work to advance innovative financing models to increase impact and accountability.

What’s the story behind starting Superpublic?

We were inspired by the example of the Superpublic lab in Paris, which was opened in November 2014 by the 27e Région and a group of innovation professionals (Plausible Possible, Care and Co, Counterpoint), with the City of Paris, the French National State (SGMAP), and a public bank called Caisse des Dépôts.

For us, Superpublic means providing a workspace where city, state, and federal agencies can come together and work on problems facing the Bay Area. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are all expected to benefit from the work of Superpublic as are agencies that operate at the county, state and federal level.

Superpublic provides space, curates programming, convenes summits, roundtables, and training programs to build capacity so that all parties to the lab (government, private companies, non profits, universities) can work together better.

Superpublic will open its doors July 2016.

What makes Superpublic different than other innovation labs?

Across the globe, cities look to San Francisco as the “innovation capital of the world” – to quote San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. This is the first innovation lab set up by a city government to solve problems prioritized by the city.

The lab, managed by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, GSA and City Innovate Foundation will break down silos between different layers of government. Superpublic will bring together multiple layers of government in the same location and act as a catalyst for product and service development to drive more responsive and efficient government. Solutions that come out of the Lab will get commercialized by City Innovate Foundation with the objective to be scaled to other cities in the City Innovate Foundation network.

What will a typical day will look like at Superpublic?

The day starts off with a morning coffee session in the community area where new members introduce themselves and open discussions can take place to ensure communication flows freely between representatives from different organizations.

The project teams have dedicated team work spaces which they can configure to their needs to execute their tasks within the overall milestone-based project management method based on Lean Startup for the process and Scrum for technical development work.

The Superpublic Steering Committee through city/state and federal agencies have sourced a list of problem sets through their constituents which get narrowed to a focused list of 3 or 4 problems. These are explored by a taskforce led by City Innovate for a screening process for approval by the Steering Committee. Upon approval, representatives from lead cities, academic, and industry prepare the proposed projects for financial feasibility and scalability to other cities in the U.S.

This now includes formulating the city problem to be solved, developing a user narrative, mapping out the relevant ecosystem, and key skills needed in a project team as well as an estimation of project timeline, cost and possible funding of the effort.

The afternoon will have delegations visiting from other cities to exchange on city problems and discussions how the Superpublic model could be applied to their cities. The approved projects are kicked off by the team taking over their dedicated working space, being celebrated by everybody from the other teams, partners and City Innovate Foundation.

I’m part of an organization that wants to become a member of the Lab, what should I do?

Send an email to concierge@cityinnovate.org stating your name, your organization’s name, and the nature of your interest. A phone number is helpful.

How can those interested connect with you (website, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.)?

You can learn more about Superpublic at www.cityinnovate.org/superpublic and on Facebook and Twitter.

New SF effort will embed startup DNA into government

(Photo: San Francisco Office of the Mayor)

(Photo: San Francisco Office of the Mayor)

The trend towards injecting fresh perspectives into the business of government via innovation fellowships, civic startup incubators and accelerators continues to grow with San Francisco’s recent announcement of a city entrepreneurship-in-residence program.

Spearheaded by SF’s Office of Innovation and led by Mayor Ed Lee Senior Advisor Rahul Mewawalla, the program will embed “world-class entrepreneurial teams” into the inner workings of government to help inspire the next big civic thing and put a new spin on the term “initial public offering.”

Mewawalla shares more about the program, its objective and how you can get involved.

What’s the impetus for SF’s EIR program?

Rahul Mewawalla: San Francisco’s first ever entrepreneurship-in-residence program announced by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in collaboration with the White House is inspired by President Obama’s call, “We’ve got to have the brightest minds to help solve our biggest challenges.”

The program is one of the first entrepreneurship-in-residence programs within government, who is by far, the largest customer of products and services in the nation, accounting for 40% of United States gross domestic product including state, local and federal spending.

Our goal has been to take the DNA of innovation – from startups to San Francisco’s government and from San Francisco’s government to across the United States. As we worked on several initiatives, our intent has been to build a sustainable model that would yield impactful and lasting results. We also wanted to have a program that could be replicated across the nation.

San Francisco is well placed to help lead this vision of innovative government – as the hub of advancement across Silicon Valley starting with semi-conductors in the 1960s, to software in the 1970s and 1980s, to internet services in the 1990s, to the most recent set of companies such as Twitter, Airbnb, Square and Yelp that are disrupting traditional industries. In many ways, San Francisco is the heartland of innovation. San Francisco also represents many elements characteristic of government – a large annual budget of over $8 billion, diverse workforce of about 28,000 employees and more than 50 different government agencies and departments.

How will the EIR program work?

RM: San Francisco’s entrepreneurship-in-residence program will select world-class entrepreneurial teams and help them develop technology-enabled products and services that can capitalize on the $142 billion public sector market.

The program plans to attract top entrepreneurs and technologists by providing them with direct access to government needs and opportunities, staff and their expertise, in addition to product development, ramp-up support, and insights into a gold mine of government problems and opportunities. San Francisco’s EIR program will offer selected teams mentorship from senior public leaders across the mayor’s office and San Francisco departments and from private sector leaders with experience at companies such as McKinsey & Company and Goldman Sachs.

Products and services that successfully solve issues faced by San Francisco can easily expand to addressing similar needs of other cities and states across the nation in addition to the private sector.

Can you paint a picture for entrepreneurs who don’t have a clue how they might best serve government or leverage opportunities?

RM: We are seeing a tremendous amount of interest from numerous innovative startups tackling key areas such as transportation, planning, data mining and analysis, tax collection, licenses, parking, energy, healthcare, environment, library, parks, airport, real estate and public safety.

Examples of opportunity areas that entrepreneurial teams and startups are seeking to work on include:

  • Utilize the growth in open data to enable better analyses and decision-making.
  • Improved utilization of public assets (e.g. parking) and enhance customer experience.
  • Make available easier healthcare choices and services for residents and businesses.
  • Enhanced recruiting and hiring applications for more efficient and productive talent management.
  • Improve transit times, transportation efficiencies and reduce costs.
  • Track and optimize energy purchases and usage.
  • Improve tracking and management systems across assets such as real estate, fleet and equipment.
  • Enable people with visual challenges to navigate areas such as the airport or better utilize the library.
  • Use tech-enabled products and services to improve public safety and reduce crime.
  • Use a digital public notification system to help local businesses and their growth.

World-class entrepreneurs focus on building superior product and market fit. This program is providing the unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to work together with government to accomplish that. In addition, the program provides a significant number of resources and assets. For example, entrepreneurs working with San Francisco’s airport (SFO) could potentially work with one terminal or boarding area to improve and enhance their product offering. Entrepreneurs can pursue economic value and help better the world at the same time.

What’s your success metric?

RM: The entrepreneurial products and services developed through San Francisco’s EIR program should drive significant impact such as increased revenue, or meaningful cost savings or help save lives. We expect to drive significant innovation and growth in areas of pressing importance such as data, mobile and cloud services, healthcare, education, transportation, energy and infrastructure.

In our discussions with other great cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Seattle and many others, it is remarkable to see the commonality of the challenges we face across cities and states. Products and services that successfully solve issues faced by San Francisco will easily expand to addressing similar needs of other cities and states. Our goal is to see these innovative programs expand and grow all across the nation.

President Obama famously said back in January of 2011, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation… What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.” I certainly hope that our collective efforts in San Francisco and across the nation mark the beginning of a future of innovation, prosperity and success for all.

How can those interested learn more?

RM: Visit entrepreneur.sfgov.org.

SF mayor helps cut tape on new GitHub HQ, posts muni code repo


San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee helped social coding platform GitHub open the doors to its new 55,000 square foot headquarters in the city’s SOMA district and, in tandem with the event, announced the city posted municipal code on the site “to make it more accessible to our public.”

From the release:

Mayor Lee celebrated the opening of GitHub’s new office space as he announced that, for the first time, the City’s municipal code previously inaccessible in modern, programmer-friendly formats, will be available for anyone to view and for coders to build applications for online. Making the municipal code available in this new format will make it easier for the public to navigate, understand and access the laws of San Francisco. The work of expanding access to the Municipal Code is the result of the efforts of many partners including American Legal Publishing, the OpenGov Foundation and GitHub. For more information, go to sfmoci.github.io/openlaw.

See also San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation on GitHub.

Open data vital for San Francisco’s Bike Share

bike share

Finally, a bike-sharing program is coming to San Francisco! What Europeans figured out years ago will be a reality in the Bay Area by this August. The plan is to put 700 bikes at 70 different stations in the City and throughout the Bay Area—where residents can quickly hop on a bicycle at one station, and drop it off at another. Appallicious is very excited about this new program, not only because we’re looking forward to hopping on these new bikes ourselves, but also in order for the program to be successful, the utilization of open data will be key. That’s why I’ll be joining sf.citi and the San Francisco Bike Coalition at Yammer on Wednesday, for a conversation about the launch of the new program and how open data and the tech community at large fits in.

Once the bike share program starts, it’s going to be extremely important to know where the heaviest demand for bikes are at certain times during the day, and certain days during the week. It’s safe to assume that on a Monday morning, you’re going to need more bikes in residential areas, and less in the Financial District, since commuters will be biking to work. But with any program like this, unexpected variables are bound to come up, and this is where open data will come in.

The bikes and bike stations will most certainly have a GPS component where the city will be able to track bikes in use, and the amount that have been checked in or out at each station. Companies like Appallicious will then be able to synthesize this data and not only help the City of San Francisco figure out where and when the heaviest demand for bikes is, but can also inform citizens through mobile applications how many bikes are available at a specific station at any given time. Just like the features on the SF Rec and Park App we developed allows you to find parks, playgrounds, dog parks, picnic tables, and more — we could also bring bicycle availability right into the app! It will be just like checking the availability of a ZipCar at a nearby parking garage.

Once this raw data is available to Appallicious, there are quite a few steps before it can be packaged and presented to bike riders in a way that will help them figure out bike availability, or to city leaders who need to know which stations need more bikes, and which ones need less. The idea of the public sector providing the private sector with information like this is nothing new. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive guaranteeing that GPS signals would be available at no charge to the world when sucha a system became operational, in the wake of a Korean Airlines flight that was shot down after accidentally flying into Russian airspace.

The Obama administration has continued to promote the idea of “sustainable innovation” that President Reagan helped start. The GPS directive from Reagan has created a $250 billion a year navigation industry. Think about GPS companies like Garmin or applications like Google Maps that rely on GPS—without Open GPS, these companies would have never have been created, and we’d still have stacks of paper maps from AAA stuffed in our glove compartments!

With this renewed push for open data, through President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, there is a chance for the United States to build a new, thriving and successful industry through information released to the public by city governments. As more and more information is released by cities all over the country and the world, companies are going to be able to step up and provide new technology that allow citizens to access and benefit from this information.

In San Francisco, open data advocates like Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor David Chiu have just passed new open data legislation that will allow companies like Appallicious to create apps and change the way in which cities and governments are able to operate for years to come.

The possibilities are endless, and I am extremely excited to see how innovators and entrepreneurs find revolutionary ways of using this data to make bike sharing easier in San Francisco. Wouldn’t it be cool to integrate the bike-sharing program into the SF Rec and Park App? You could reserve a bike with your app and then take it for a tour of Golden Gate Park or see all the incredible art available throughout the city using the app. The open data movement has the potential to create a thriving, sustainable industry that can create millions of jobs, and a symbiotic relationship between the private and public sectors that could make both more effective, efficient, and profitable.

San Francisco makes open data city policy

SF Mayor Ed Lee introduced open data legislation on October 15 that would create a chief data officer and promote the use of open data in city government. (Photo: City of San Francisco)

SF Mayor Ed Lee introduced open data legislation on October 15 that would create a chief data officer and promote the use of open data in city government. (Photo: City of San Francisco)

Today, open data and its power to transform a city and a nation by engaging tech savvy citizens will be on display at San Francisco City Hall. And just as importantly, companies that have been successful because of forward thinking open data policies will testify to our elected leaders about its importance. As a founder of one of these sustainable companies, Appallicious, I am proud to be speaking on behalf of the open data movement.

After hearing testimony from myself and others in the open data industry, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will review and vote on new legislation that will strengthen the city’s open data initiatives and allow San Francisco to appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to manage the City’s open data efforts.

More than three years ago the City of San Francisco launched DataSF.org, the city’s one-stop shop for government data. San Francisco was the first city to follow the federal government’s open government effort, Data.gov when it launched DataSF.org. Since then, more than 70 apps have been developed for city residents by civic innovators and companies– countless other cities and towns have been inspired to follow San Francisco’s lead and have enacted similar policies, providing residents with greater accessibility to government data.

San Francisco’s open data efforts have helped spur the creation of apps for citizens that makes it easier for residents to receive government services, actively participate in city policy and have saved the city a substantial amount of money. Behind these open data apps are new, civically minded companies, and a new industry that is starting to emerge in the land of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  Companies like Appallicious100PlusRoutesy, and Zonability, that would not have been possible just a couple years ago are popping up in cities all over the country supported by amazing organizations like Code For America.

Back in October 2012, I was proud to join San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor David Chiu and San Francisco Rec & Park GM Phil Ginsburg as they introduced the revised open data legislation. These Gov 2.0 leaders used the event to highlight companies like Appallicious that are using open data to create apps and re-imagine our city. They launched the San Francisco Rec & Park app that Appallicious created using over 1,000 datasets for parks, playgrounds, and dog parks, along with transportation datasets so residents can get directions to all of the City’s attractions. All of these datasets are available on DataSF.org.

The SF Rec & Park app makes it easy for anybody to find city parks, playgrounds, museums, picnic tables, gardens, restrooms, news and events and more in the palm of your hand. Information is displayed with descriptions and pictures on a GPS enabled mobile map.

The SF Rec & Park app, which was recently named by Mashable as one of 7 open data apps every city should have, also will soon make it easier for residents to make reservations for a soccer field or picnic table, or apply for a permit when they need to host an event in a public park. All of this will be available through a mobile device or on the web, saving taxpayers and government workers time and money. No longer will you have to wait on hold or send multiple emails to confirm a picnic table reservation for a birthday party.

Open data apps like this are only the beginning of something much bigger that is being made possible by open data policies and government leaders that get its importance.

On his first day as President, Obama signed the memorandum on Transparency and Open Government to spur innovation at the Federal level for private sector development. This move inspired progressive cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia to create their own open data legislation at the local level.  This has led to an emergent new industry, unparalleled innovation, job creation, revenue, and collaboration between government and the private sector not seen since President Reagan’s decision to open up the Global Positioning System in the 1980s.

Organizations like Code for America and Citizenville, as well as private companies like Appallicious and the SF Rec & Park app are living, breathing examples of the new industry first created by President Reagan in the 1980s and rejuvenated by President Obama.

Stay tuned, a whole new industry is starting to take form powered by open data on a local level, creating jobs, revenue, and never before seen citizen and government.

If your city is new to the open data movement, please ask your elected leaders to take the Citizenville Challenge and bring open data policies and innovation to your community. And take a second to support the open data movement by applauding Appallicious’ submission to the Knight Foundation News Challenge and others that are transforming the way government and citizens engage and communicate.

Corrections: “Open Government Act” was changed to “memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.” Reference to “Open GPS” was changed to “Global Positioning System.”

Is San Francisco sittin’ on the dock of the open data bay?

San FranciscoIn October 2012, in the form of proposed legislation, San Francisco announced it would appoint a chief data officer to “be responsible for sharing City data with the public, facilitating the sharing of information between City departments, and analyzing how data sets can be used to improve city decision making.”

Nearly five months later, the city has yet to follow through on its open data promise.

“Making City data available to everyday citizens will help government explore new solutions to old challenges,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a press release announcing new proposed open data legislation. “Changing Open Data policies can unleash the creativity of the private sector so they can help us improve City services that impact our lives, from transportation, to how we access our parks, to how we request City services, making San Francisco the leader in Gov 2.0.”

“Strengthening our Open Data law will help us use technology to make government more efficient and accountable,” said SF Board President David Chiu from the same release. “San Francisco created an incredible model for government encouragement of Open Data, but now we need to take our efforts to the next level.”

Unfortunately, San Francisco missed a great opportunity to position the new appointee during this past weekend’s 2013 International Open Data Day Hackathon, and there are no signs it will do so in the immediate future.

When Philadelphia issued an executive order in April 2012 announcing a CDO position, the city appointed Mark Headd within three and a half months.

In the city with a technology culture that prides itself on rapid execution, what is taking so long to finalize the legislation and getting the position filled?

San Francisco set to appoint chief data officer in revised open data legislation

San Francisco will announce proposed revisions to open data legislation Monday that includes the creation of a chief data officer who will serve as the primary evangelist for making city data freely-available to the public.

As part of the new legislation (full text below), the CDO will “be responsible for sharing City data with the public, facilitating the sharing of information between City departments, and analyzing how data sets can be used to improve city decision making.”

Also included is the requirement that each city agency appoint an open data coordinator and establish open data plans, implementation timelines and itemizations of what data is being collected.

“Open Data is an important resource for growing innovation,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in a prepared statement. “City-maintained datasets hold a wealth of value for citizens when they are liberated from the halls of government. When data is freely accessible, it increases government transparency and efficiency, while also driving civic innovation and job creation.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom first launched the city’s open data efforts in 2009 through a centralized website, DataSF. The site was enhanced in March 2012 and is now powered by the data platform startup Socrata.

Watch live

Live announcement with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at 11:00 a.m. PST.

Live stream by Ustream


The following text outlines the proposed revisions to San Francisco’s existing Open Data legislation:

[Administrative Code–Citywide Coordination of Open Data Policy and Procedures]

Ordinance amending San Francisco’s open data policies and procedures and establishing the position and duties of Chief Data Officer and Departmental Data Coordinators, and amending San Francisco Administrative Code Sections 22D.2 and 22D.3 to implement these changes.

NOTE: Additions are single-underline italics Times New Roman;

deletions are strike-through italics Times New Roman.

Board amendment additions are double-underlined;

Board amendment deletions are strikethrough normal.
Do NOT delete this NOTE: area.

Be it ordained by the people of the City and County of San Francisco:

Section 1. Findings.

(a) San Francisco has been a leader in open data policy in the United States. In 2009, Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Directive promoting Open Data. In 2010, the Board of Supervisors expanded on the Directive with the passage of the City’s Open Data Policy (Ordinance 293-10), codified in San Francisco’s Administrative Code Section 22D.

(b) An open data policy has been shown to drive increased government efficiency and civic engagement, leading to social and economic benefits as a result of innovative citizen interaction with government. Social and economic benefits include, but are not limited to:

(1) Empowering citizens through democratization of information and fostering citizen participation in City projects;

(2) Supporting early stage entrepreneurship;

(3) Encouraging positive environments that contribute to workforce development and job creation; and

(4) Increasing a positive business environment and promoting public-private partnerships.

(c) City departments should take further steps to make their data sets available to the public in a more timely and efficient manner. San Francisco will improve and expand its Open Data Policy by creating the position of Chief Data Officer and Department Data Coordinators to implement the standards and policies articulated in the City’s Open Data Policy.

Section 2. The San Francisco Administrative Code is hereby amended by amending Sections 22D.2, and 22D.3, to read as follows:


(a) Chief Data Officer.

In order to coordinate implementation, compliance, and expansion of the City’s Open Data Policy, the Mayor shall appoint a Chief Data Officer (CDO) for the City and County of San Francisco. The CDO shall be responsible for sharing City data with the public, facilitating the sharing of information between City departments, and analyzing how data sets can be used to improve city decision making. To accomplish these objectives, the CDO shall:

(1) Coordinate utilization, maintenance, and updates of the City’s Open Data website, currently known as “DataSF;”

(2) Oversee the design, adoption by the Committee on Information Technology (COIT) and implementation of technical standards for DataSF to ensure that the portal and its datasets are implemented, updated, and utilized in accordance with San Francisco’s open data policies;

(3) Provide education and analytic tools for City departments to improve and assist with their open data efforts;

(4) Assist departments with compliance with Open Data policies by working with Department Data Coordinators, collecting and reviewing each department’s open data implementation plans and creating a template for the departmental quarterly progress reports;

(5) Present an annual updated citywide implementation plan to COIT, the Mayor, and Board of Supervisors and respond, as necessary, regarding the status of DataSF in the City;

(6) Actively work to further the goals of open data in the City;

(7) Coordinate creation and sharing of internal City data sets outside of those designated for publication on DataSF;

(8) Help establish data standards within and outside the City through collaboration with external organizations;

(9) Assist City departments with analysis of City data sets to improve decision making; and,

(10) Analyze and report on the usage of DataSF.

(b) City Departments

(a) Each City department, board, commission, and agency (“Department”) shall:

(1)Make reasonable efforts to make available all data sets under the Department’s control, provided however, that such disclosure shall be consistent with the rules and standards promulgated by the CDO and adopted by COIT and with applicable law, including laws related to privacy;

(2) Conduct quarterly reviews of their progress on providing access to data sets requested by the public through the designated web portal beginning six months after the appointment of the CDO; and

(3) Designate a Data Coordinator (DC) who will oversee implementation and compliance with the Open Data Policy within his/her respective department. Each DC shall work with the CDO to implement the City’s open data policies and standards. The DC shall:

(i) Prepare an Open Data plan for the Department which shall:

(1) Include a timeline for the publication of the Department’s open data and a summary of open data efforts planned and/or underway in the Department;

(2) Include a summary description of all data sets under the control of each Department (including data contained in already-operating information technology systems);

(3) Prioritize all public data sets for inclusion on DataSF;

(4) Be updated quarterly after the initial submission to the CDO. In the event of unsatisfactory implementation of the plan by the Department and/or disagreement over publication of data sets, the CDO may request the Department’s DC appear before COIT; and,

(5) Be published on the department’s web site in addition to the DataSF site.

(6) Ensure data sets comply with the following requirements:

(ii) Review department data sets for potential inclusion on DataSF and ensure they comply with the following guidelines:

(1) Data prioritized for publication should be of likely interest to the public and should not disclose information that is proprietary, confidential, or protected by law or contract;

(2) Data sets that contain personally identifiable information or represent potential breaches to security or privacy should be flagged for potential exclusion from DataSF; and,

(3) Data sets should be free of charge to the public through the web portal.

(iii) Make data sets available, provided that such disclosure is consistent with the City’s Open Data Policy, technical standards, and with applicable law, including laws related to privacy;

(iv) Catalogue and prioritize the Department’s open data for publication on a quarterly basis;

(v) Appear before COIT and respond to questions regarding the Department’s compliance with the City’s Open Data policies and standards;

(vi) Conspicuously display his/her contact information (including name, phone number or email address) on DataSF with his/her department’s data sets;

(vii) Monitor comments and public feedback on the Department’s data sets on a timely basis;

(viii) Upon receipt of comments or information requests from the public related to data set content and supporting documentation, assess the nature and complexity of the request and provide DT with an expected timeframe to resolve the support inquiry as soon as possible;

(ix) Notify DT upon publication of any updates or corrective action; and,

(x) Notify DT prior to any structural changes to data sets when releasing updated data;

(c) Department of Technology

The Department of Technology (DT) shall provide and manage a single Internet site (web portal) for the City’s public data sets (http://data.sfgov.org or successor site), called “DataSF.” In managing the site, DT shall:

(1) Publish data sets with reasonable, user-friendly registration requirements, license requirements, or restrictions on the use and distribution of data sets;

(2) Indicate data sets that have been recently updated;

(3) Ensure that updated data sets retain the original data structure, i.e., the number of data elements per record, name, formats and order of the data elements must be structurally consistent with the originally approved submission;

(4) Use open, non-proprietary standards when practicable;

(5) Include an on-line forum to solicit feedback from the public and to encourage public discussion on Open Data policies and public data set availability;

(6) Forward open data requests to the assigned DC; and,

(7) Take measures to ensure access to public data sets while protecting DataSF from unlawful abuse or attempts to damage or impair use of the website.


(a) The CDOCOIT shall establish for adoption by COIT rules and standards to implement the open data policy, including developing standards to determine which data sets are appropriate for public disclosure. In making this determination, COIT shall balance the benefits of open data set forth in Section 22D.1, above, with the need to protect from disclosure information that is proprietary, confidential, or protected by law or contract (b) Within 60 days of the effective date of this ordinance, COIT The CDOshall promulgate and COIT shall adopt rules and standards to implement the open data policy which shall apply to all Departments, consistent with COIT’s role and responsibilities in San Francisco Administrative Code Section 22A.3. The CDO and COIT intend to work with CAO and purchaser to develop contract provisions to promote open data policies. The rules and standards shall include the following:

(1) Technical technical requirements for the publishing of public data sets by Departments for the purpose of making public data available to the greatest number of users and for the greatest number of applications. These rules shall, whenever practicable, use non-proprietary technical standards tor web publishing and e-government;

(2) Guidelines guidelines for Departments to follow in developing their plans for implementing the open data policy consistent with the standards established by COIT. Each plan shall include an accounting of public data sets under the control of the Department; and

(3) Rules for including open data requirements in applicable City contracts and standard contract provisions that promote the City’s open data policies, including, where appropriate, provisions to ensure that the City retains ownership of City data and the ability to post the data on data.sfgov.org or make it available through other means; and,

(4) Requirements that a third party providing City data (or applications based on City data) to the public explicitly identify the source and version of the public data set, and include a description of any modifications made to the public data set.

(c) COIT shall also evaluate the merits and feasibility of making City data sets available pursuant to a generic license, such as those offered by “Creative Commons.” Such a license could grant any user the right to copy, distribute, display and create derivative works at no cost and with a minimum level of conditions placed on the use. If appropriate, COIT shall specify the terms and conditions of such a generic license in the standards it develops it develops to implement the open data policy.

(d) Prior to issuing rules and standards, COIT shall solicit comments from the public, including from individuals and firms who have successfully developed applications using open data sets.

Hacking taxis and ‘making life in SF a little better’

SF Mayor Ed Lee and Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath with SF Taxi & Mass Communication Challenge attendees (Photo: Mix & Stir Studio)

SF Mayor Ed Lee and Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath with SF Taxi & Mass Communication Challenge attendees (Photo: Mix & Stir Studio)

Last February, officials from San Francisco collaborated with the California College of the Arts and Mix & Stir Studio for the SF Taxi & Mass Communication Challenge, a 24-hour “unhackathon” focused on “design-driven technology solutions to real world problems.” SF Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath and Mix & Stir’s Christopher Ireland share their thoughts on building a hackathon that incorporated design thinking and “learning about customers from the start.”

Why focus on taxis for a hackathon?

Christopher Ireland: From CCA’s and participants perspective, this is a real problem – and one they experience regularly. They directly benefit from its solution.

Jay Nath: This is a long standing issue for our residents and one that we thought could benefit from design thinking.

How did the idea for this transpire?

CI: Again from CCA and Mix & Stir perspective, we are seeking real problems or “pain points” that can be solved through collaborations between designers, technologists and business experts. The city’s willingness to share data sets, to move quickly and decisively, and to provide background and expert contacts was key for us.

JN: We had been in conversations with CCA and Mix & Stir about the idea of a civic innovation lab. This transformed into a discussion about applying design thinking to civic challenges which led to our thinking of specific issues like the taxi one to test out our theories.

What role did SF play in the event and why?

JN: We worked closely with CCA and Mix & Stir on how to ensure that we had the right stakeholders in the room. That meant getting taxi drivers, dispatchers, our taxi director, etc., on a panel and then all day Saturday as resources for teams. We also had city leadership including our mayor, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin and Supervisor Scott Weiner attend to show support.

What was successful about the event and what lessons did you learn?

CI: For Mix & Stir, the event was a success because SF gained useful, viable ideas; our participants experienced the value of cross-discipline collaboration; everyone saw the importance of design to creating and communicating the solution, and we reaffirmed the importance of listening to and learning about customers from the start. For CCA, all of the above holds, but they would also add that sharing their facilities, faculty and student talent is in line with their strategic mission to support the SF community.

JN: We transformed many city staff into believers of the power of design thinking and how multidisciplinary teams can create new ideas and solutions. With 10 teams, we saw novel ideas that will help shape the direction the City takes to move from these solutions to incubating and productizing.

What are the next steps? How are you going to build on this?

CI:: For Mix & Stir, we first want to fully document the ideas and help the city implement the ones it can. This can be as minimal as gathering and providing work files, or we could incubate 1-2 of the ideas at CCA this summer to test it in a real world setting. We would love to work on another challenge for the City in the future as well.

JN: We are working with SFMTA and Mix & Stir to look at how to take the best ideas and bring them to life. We have some interesting ideas that we will be sharing as we make progress.

SF Mayor Ed Lee discusses the event in this interview with TechCrunch’s Eric Eldon:

How San Francisco can get its gov 2.0 groove back

San Francisco

There’s been a great deal of discussion lately around the topic of government innovation, especially here in San Francisco, with the appointment of a new chief innovation officer, a new “civic accelerator,” a new venture with a consortium of Bay Area technology companies and a new technology and innovation task force led by SF Mayor Ed Lee.

All signs point to a bright gov 2.0 future for SF but, before we get too excited, let’s look back so we can learn how to best overcome the past two years of innovation inertia.

These critiques and ideas aren’t meant to minimize the great open government work that’s been accomplished by key former and current officials. Good people inside SF’s government are doing the best they can with the resources and mandate they have, which much of the time appears to be limited.

Despite having one of the nation’s first open source procurement policies, initiated by former mayor Gavin Newsom in 2009, you’d be hard-pressed to find a line of code that’s not proprietary. One SF official once told me he almost lost his job advocating for the city’s use of open source software.

The city’s apps showcase was created using the open source platform WordPress, as was the open collaboration initiative website PolicySF, now both relics of the Newsom years. The latter has been abandoned completely and the former, apart from a site redesign, has been tucked away into oblivion. Newsom’s mayoral website, sfmayor.org, was also developed in WordPress, however, Lee’s site at the same domain appears to now be powered by .asp.

Despite having one of the nation’s first open data directives, SF has yet to establish an aggressive mandate to make city data more public. In fact, the directive is no longer even accessible. SF’s open data portal, DataSF, had recent dataset additions in December, however, has been lackluster in its growth or general promotion of its offerings.

Since the launch of DataSF, the same applications have been touted as examples of open data inspiring entrepreneurial innovation. Those same apps are still the sole reference points for journalists, even as recent as this week.

One of the city’s most prominent open data applications, EcoFinder, is no longer available for download on iTunes. The app launched to much fanfare and featured in major news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Today, it is non-existent.

One unnamed civic startup tried collaborating with city officials in 2011, requesting access to specific departmental data, only to be told it didn’t have the capacity to do so. After seeing a demo of the startup’s app, the department managed to find the resources to mimic its functionality and launched an app of its own. The department has yet to make the data accessible and essentially monopolized a market when it could have simply fostered entrepreneurial innovation and saved taxpayer dollars.

When it comes to fostering civic entrepreneurship, the true shining star of SF’s open data efforts is Routesy, developed by Steven Peterson and sells for $4.99 on iTunes with a 4+ rating. To the city’s credit, it released the transit data, but not without a fight, and then just got out of the way. Routesy wasn’t developed with the help of a civic accelerator or hackathon. It was developed by an entrepreneur who leveraged public data to create an application which he now sells through a private sector platform and is forced to maintain a sustainable commercial offering by meeting the demands of the market and building on its success.

That’s civic innovation.

Ed Lee can change all of this, and he doesn’t need a task force to do it.

Here are a few ideas.

Build the best mayoral website in the world

The best way to show the rest of government you’re serious about making SF the next “City 2.0” is to practice what you preach. Build the best mayoral website in the world and, to prove you’re agile and truly grok the lean startup principles, launch it within the next month and leverage the civic surplus of the city’s world-class developer and designer community to help you do it (see New York City’s Reinvent NYC.gov hackathon).

Use ‘Built in SF’ technology

The SF Bay Area is home to the world’s most innovative technology companies, including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and WordPress, to name just a few. Leverage these technologies and promote your use of it. As mentioned before, build the city’s web infrastructure on WordPress, host monthly tweetups and live YouTube question and answer sessions, document your days with Instagram. The opportunities to use these tools to better communicate with the city’s residents and promote the ‘Built in SF’ technologies are endless. NYC Mayor Bloomberg is a pro at this.

Go back to the (data) fundamentals

What’s old is new again, and that applies particularly to public data. Open data advocates applauded the city’s launch of DataSF, but little has been done or championed since. As proven by the Routesy example above, the easiest approach to sparking innovation is to release the data and get out of the way. Solicit feedback from the private sector on what data it would like access to, mandate agencies evaluate and release data, only procure software that has the functionality to push data outward and require every agency to prominently link directly to DataSF.

Leverage the civic surplus

Bypass procurement hurdles and limited development resources and leverage SF’s world-class designer and developer community to help build the fundamental technology infrastructure, such as agency websites and applications, especially for projects such as Open311 implementation. Host monthly “HackSF” codeathons at City Hall to build off specific requirements, developed by agencies or in collaboration with volunteer developers, and create a consistent sense of civic community.

Open source the infrastructure

Open source is a fundamental component of open government. Start by re-launching your website using open source software, preferably WordPress given the company’s affiliation with SF, and challenging (or mandating) other departments do the same, recognizing them with a monthly award or acknowledgement ceremony.

Give citizens a dashboard

Former Newsom advisor Brian Purchia recently recommended SF adopt the federal government’s IT Dashboard to help the city save money on technology projects and provide better insight into what its working on. Go beyond IT. Provide visualizations into all of SF’s public expenditures. It’ll keep you honest and make citizens happy.

These are the low-hanging fruits to true civic innovation and can be done over the course of a few months. An agile government and its leaders can implement and empower others to execute now, especially in a city who’s essence is the antithesis of bureaucracy.

We’ll know soon enough whether Lee truly groks the startup mentality of his constituency, just as NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore are doing, and can help SF get its gov 2.0 groove back.