San Francisco taps open data for city apps

San Francisco taps open data for city apps

In October 2012, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced proposed revisions to the city’s historic 2009 Open Data legislation. This proposed legislation strengthens San Francisco’s position as a national leader in Open Data.

Open Data increases government efficiency and civic engagement, leading to social and economic benefits as a result of citizen interaction with government. Opening city data allows residents to use that data in innovative ways -- to identify trends, create solutions and build products and companies. Open Data creates positive environments that support early stage entrepreneurships and contribute to workforce development and job creation.

Recognizing these benefits, in 2009, San Francisco became one of the first cities to share its data publicly through its open data effort, DataSF. DataSF now has over 200 datasets from dozens of city agencies available and dozens of apps have been created from this data. There have been some great examples of what Open Data can be used to do.

SF Rec Park AppLocal company Appallicious used park data to build the SF Rec Park app which allows locals and tourists alike to discover the wonder of San Francisco’s green spaces.

Among a plethora of features, users can use the app to find park information, search parks based on facilities, and discover volunteer opportunities.

"Ninety-six percent of San Franciscans live within a ten-minute walk to a park," said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. “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."

Another great example of an app using Open Data is 100Plus, which prompts users to focus on making small, healthy lifestyle changes. The app uses open data sets from DataSF to map out San Francisco walking destinations.

Users are then encouraged to walk to, and discover, new destinations. Each time a user completes a route, their "life score" increases, encouraging further healthy activity.

While many of these companies are using Open Data to develop their products, Mayor Lee also announced that the city will begin to look to private sector partners to start releasing some of their private data to the public.

San Francisco-based Motionloft set historic precedent when they agreed to release some of their data to the public. Motionloft uses sensors to collect information on how many pedestrians, cyclists or cars pass by a certain location. This information is useful to a wide range of individuals from urban planners to small business owners.

"Making city data available to everyday citizens will help government explore new solutions to old challenges,” said Mayor Lee. “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.”

A version of this article first appeared in Nextrends