Now Open: Mayor Ed Lee Announces Private Data Partnerships, New Chief Data Officer Position

Our own Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu made big, big news in the Gov 2.0 and open data world today, and we’re summarizing it all here for you. Made live from the Hatchery in SoMa, today’s announcements include information on the new Open Data legislation, which Lee and Chiu will present to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, the 16th. We also have all the details on the now-live San Francisco Recreation and Park app.

San Francisco to Hire Chief Data Officer

This position is so new that an official job description wasn’t even live when the announcement was made. But in short, the Chief Data Officer will be responsible for improving access to government data sources. The city has over 200 public data sets currently, but with over 60 departments, it won’t take long for this new hire to pull out dozens more.

The City’s Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nath said San Francisco is restructuring its various agencies to ensure that each department has an open data coordinator who will assist the Chief Data Officer. Mayor’s Office Budget Director Kate Howard said the new Chief will work out of her department. The Budget Office, she said, is assigned with the task of making our government more efficient – the perfect place to build up open data initiatives.

San Francisco is only the third city in the entire country to have a Chief Data Officer. “We might be third, but we’ll do it best,” Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer, said lightheartedly during today’s announcement. The city hopes to learn from what Philadelphia (the first city to get a Chief Data Officer) and Chicago (the second) have done and study the lessons learned.

The new position is part of the new Open Data legislation that Lee and Chiu will present tomorrow. Since the launch of the City’s 2009 Open Data initiative, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation has hosted several “policy hacks” and worked with the community to revise this policy for the City and County of San Francisco with the end goal of ensuring that our City remains a leader in the Open Data movement and continues to provide state-of-the-art access to the City’s valuable datasets.

San Francisco Expands DataSF to include Private Data Sources

Mayor Lee also announced the city’s partnership with private sector partners including Motionloft, a nationwide company that provides real-time information on how people move around cities. Motionloft has agreed to contribute portions of their datasets to the City’s Open Data portal, DataSF. Motionloft is the first private company to work with San Francisco in order to open its City-related data for public use.

This data will be useful in crowd prediction and analysis – say for planning out big city events. It can also be useful in public transport apps.

“Making City data available to everyday citizens will help government explore new solutions to old challenges,” Lee said in a press release. “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.”

In other private-public partner news, today’s announcement included a demo from Esri, which used city data to build the San Francisco Urban Revitalization Map, an animated map tracking urban growth from the past 12 years as well as how it has affected different neighborhoods. You can see the map live now. Yet another demo came from 100 Plus, which developed Outside, an app that gives users healthy missions around the city.

Nath made clear during today’s announcement that while the City is working hard to successfully partner with private companies, the content in the DataSF portal belongs to the people and not private vendors. The information came from public resources and will therefore remain completely open to the public.

The metric of success for the City opening data to the public, Nath said, is ultimately how many jobs are created at the various startups springing up around open data.

SF Recreation and Parks Launches Mobile App

Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, came to today’s event to announce the launch of his agency’s new mobile app built in partnership with private company Appallacious, who did the project pro bono. The app gives residents information about their parks along with a fully interactive map feature showing San Francisco’s roughly 200 neighborhood parks and playgrounds that take up about 4,000 acres of space.

Future iterations of the application will include the ability to buy park event tickets, permits, and more. Next editions will also include the ability to book classes offered through Recs & Park.

Download the application now.

“Ninety-six percent of San Franciscans live within a ten-minute walk to a park,” Ginsburg said in a recent interview. “Access to recreation is so fundamental to the quality of our lives… It’s important and noble to give people easier tools to use the park system.”

In that interview, Ginsburg detailed the long road it took to get to today’s launch. When he became GM back in 2009, he saw that the department needed a bit of technological help – he judged the Recs & Park website to be the worst among the City’s various agencies. But once their new and improved site came online, he said then Mayor Gavin Newsom jokingly told him, “Great, but websites are so 2003. Where’s your app?”

Luckily, Ginsburg said, Appallacious appeared and offered to help them close the gap.

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