SF311

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.

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: