Yo Yoshida

Continuing San Francisco’s national leadership on open data

Port of San Francisco (Photo: Luke Fretwell)

Port of San Francisco (Photo: Luke Fretwell)

Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will take its final vote to approve my update to our city’s groundbreaking open data law. My open data ordinance, in its simplest terms, standardizes and sets timelines for the release of appropriate city government data.

I know that my update to our open data ordinance will help lead to further innovation and technologically driven services, solutions, platforms, and applications for civic issues and problems. Technology is not going to be the cure-all for every problem government faces, but it can certainly help to improve our resident’s quality of life in certain instances, while continuing to boost our local economy at the same time.

All across the nation, cities, counties, states, and even the federal government have and continue to take steps towards making appropriate government data available because open data has proven to spark innovation, drive greater efficiency and cost-savings in government, and fuel further economic development – as evidenced in the recent and steady growth in the civic startup sector.

My law modifies and standardizes the city’s open data standards, ensuring for data released in machine-readable formats; sets timelines for city departments for the release of appropriate city data sets; creates a mechanism for city staff and agencies to interact with the public and entrepreneur community for the prioritization of releasing city data sets; and makes San Francisco the first city in the nation to be tasked with developing a strategy to give residents access to their own government held data.

There are examples here in San Francisco and nationally that show open data used in practice, and how open data can help accomplish all of the positive benefits mentioned above. Whether, it is Yelp’s recent partnership with the city to post public health scores to their website for city restaurants to help residents make healthier choices, to residents being able to use the acclaimed San Francisco Recreation and Parks App, which helps residents and visitors find park and recreation locations, make picnic table reservations, and allows for tickets for concerts, art exhibits, and other events to be purchased straight from a mobile device.

The standardization of the city’s technical open data standards, which ensures that data will be available for use in machine readable format that are non-proprietary, is key to unlocking the true potential and value of appropriate data sets that the City holds. A recent report from Mckinsey&Company states that open data can help unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion in economic value worldwide annually across seven distinct sectors. A new economy with this great of potential is something that should not be ignored.

My ordinance also creates tighter deadlines for city departments to follow in the release and update of appropriate government data. Tighter deadlines regarding the release of open data sets creates certainty that will be extremely beneficial to the public and entrepreneur community. With more certainty, entrepreneurs and the public will be able to better plan around their individual ideas and implementations of our city’s open data sets that will be the base of the next product, service, or application that helps to benefit all San Franciscans.

The inclusion of timelines regarding the release of appropriate government data sets was not an arbitrary decision. It was a decision based in practice and from testimony we heard from the public and entrepreneur community. Yo Yoshida, CEO and Co-founder of Appallicious, was even quoted as saying “We look forward to putting some teeth into the open-data movement through this legislation. We do have some snafus with some departments not being able to release it quick enough to give the developers the ability to create products from this and create industry and jobs and move the movement forward.”

My ordinance also creates a better mechanism for the public and entrepreneur community to interact with city staff and departments who will be responsible for cataloging, updating, and uploading appropriate government data sets. By mandating each data set have the contact information of the staff that uploaded the data (phone and email) associated with the data set, any interactions between the two parties will be sure to spark creativity and discussion regarding potential high value data sets, so that the next amazing products and services will just be on the horizon.

Lastly, my ordinance would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to develop a strategy for giving residents access to their own government held data. The addition of this requirement in my ordinance believes in a growing national movement that is calling on all levels of government to give residents access to their own data for their own use. If it is yours, we should give it back to you – simple as that.

San Francisco Magazine called my ordinance the “Super-Boring City Law That Could Be Huge.” I guess open data may be boring to some, but I would tell you it depends on who you ask. It is definitely not boring when the transformative potential of open data is known to increase government efficiency and accountability, fuel further economic development, and create an atmosphere that encourages innovation, discovery and growth.

Appallicious joins with SF to launch park and rec iPhone app

Later today, as part of Innovation Month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will unveil SF Recreation & Park’s official iPhone App, SFRECPARK, developed for San Francisco by mobile commerce company Appallicious.

Appallicious CEO Yo Yoshida sat down with GovFresh to share how open data efforts made his company possible and what’s next in Gov 2.0.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Appallicious has created a first-of-its-kind mobile commerce platform, which allows government to create and manage its own custom mobile apps and generate new revenue through ticketing, reservations, permitting and more via mobile devices and web widgets.

What problems does Appallicious solve for government?

Smartphone users will download more than 45 billion apps in 2012, nearly twice the number of apps that were downloaded in 2011.

People are beginning to expect that they can do just about anything on their phone from purchasing tickets to finding the best dog park in their neighborhood to buying a hot dog at a sporting event. Government wants to innovate and provide residents and visitors with easy to use government apps for providing services, but many are still working to develop a website that works.

Government leaders are also trying to figure out more ways to bring in new revenue and optimize existing revenue to departments. Many government agencies are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away annually to various outside companies that manage their ticketing for concerts, museums, park passes that instead could go directly to the city or town instead of through a third party. Thanks to advances in mobile technology cities and states do not need to use outside vendors for these services and can manage this all on their own through cheap and easy to use SaaS solutions.

Appallicious solves both of these problems with its easy to use and customizable Skipitt™ platform. The platform allows government agencies to have a suite of customized mobile apps that gives residents and visitors the ability to make reservations, purchase tickets for events, receive permits, navigate their city, and even order concessions — all from the palm of your hand. Our mobile platform allows government to collect revenue directly that they would only have gotten a portion of before, and manage their own custom applications and transactions from one robust and flexible content management system. Not to mention, it gives departments a much needed mobile facelift.

The app also makes it easier for residents to make reservations for a soccer field, picnic table or get that permit they need to host an event in a city park. All of this can now be done through a mobile device or 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.

What’s the story behind starting Appallicious?

I’ve always loved technology and public service. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help make government more accessible, but I did not know how I could make a difference. A couple weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden summed up how technology will transform government, quoting Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “All’s changed, changed utterly. Terrible beauty has been born.” It is incredible how much has changed so quickly.

As Gov 2.0 efforts began to heat up three years ago with the federal government’s launch of Data.gov and San Francisco’s open data efforts, DataSF.org, a light bulb went off. I began to start thinking about opportunities to transform the way people interact with government via a mobile device. Data.gov, DataSF.org and other Gov 2.0 efforts have begun to make government data easily accessible for developers to make all kinds web and mobile apps that make government work better and would not have been possible just a couple years ago.

Shortly thereafter, I connected with an old friend and rock star developer, Fabrice Armisen, and the idea for Appallicious was born. Since then, our team has been working tirelessly to create a mobile commerce platform for government to handle ticketing, reservations, permitting, ordering and much more, while using open data to provide incredible access, transparency, and resources for the public navigate all of the services and facilities they didn’t know they had access to.

It has been a lot of work, and incredibly challenging, but we’ve done it. And earlier this year, Appallicious was recognized for what we think is an incredible product — we were named a Silicon Valley Innovation Summit A0250 to Watch Winner. And I am happy to announce that we officially launched the platform today with our first city, San Francisco.

Tell us about the app and how you ended up working with San Francisco.

First things first, I’m a San Franciscan, and our company is based in the city. I really wanted to find a way to help the city I love.

About a year ago, San Francisco Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg and I met. He said that he wanted to bring the park system into the 21st century with an easy to use mobile app that anybody could use.

We started to talk about features that he wanted from a mobile app, he said it had to include ticketing, reservations, permits, navigation tools for finding the best dog park and it had to be flexible to allow for more features. From our initial conversations I thought the Skipitt™ Platform that we were in the middle of developing would be a perfect fit. He agreed and we’ve been working with the city for the past year on the app.

We are rolling out the app today with some of the features enabled. We’ll be adding many more in the weeks and months ahead.

What are app’s key features?

SFRECPARK makes it easy to find attractions, city parks, playgrounds, dog parks, 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.

A few of the features activated for this release include the ability to search, filter, volunteer, donate and make reservation requests at San Francisco city parks and facilities. There is also location based mapping and directions, information, and social media integration.

Future updates will include mobile ticketing, multi-day park passes, the ordering of concessions, classes, public art, and memberships, walking tours through QR scans and location based technology, and transportation options. Additional features will be rolled out in the weeks and months ahead.

We will also be providing the app for different phone operating systems including Android™ and web mobile.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

The SF Rec & park app is free for anybody to download. Go to Apple’s app store to download it by searching for “San Francisco Rec & Park” or just click here.

How can those interested connect with you?

It’s easy. You can find us on the web at www.appallicious.com.

You can download the SF Rec & Park App for free here.

You can also email me directly at yo@appallicious.com.

Today, SF also introduced a new open data law. How important are open data laws for your company’s success?

Open data laws are hugely important for our company. San Francisco’s open data efforts made the SF Rec & Park app possible. We used over 1,000 datasets for parks, playgrounds, dog trails and more to create our maps. We used the city’s transportation datasets for people to get directions to all of the city’s attractions. All of these datasets are available on DataSF.org.

More than 70 apps have been developed for residents by civic innovators and companies since the city launched DataSF.org. San Francisco’s open data efforts have helped to not only spur the creation of apps for citizens and visitors, but also new civically-minded companies like ours and MomMaps, Routesy and Zonability.

What other cities are you working with?

We’ve started with San Francisco and are now working with a number of different departments including the San Francisco Art Commission (SFarts), and the Department of Public Health. We’re also in discussions with a number of other cities, including Los Angeles and Denver.