San Francisco kick-started the open-data movement three years ago when lawmakers voted to approve the first ordinance in the nation to encourage departments to release their data. But since that time, The City has fallen behind.
There are myriad reasons why opening up government data is positive. For one, it can help in holding our elected and appointed officials accountable. But here in the hotbed of technology, it also can drive innovation. Tech companies are able to use publicly available raw data, which the typical person would most likely have a hard time making heads or tails of, and morph it into a user-friendly service. The City’s data website, datasf.org, is a wealth of information, with about 500 data sets, according to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. But San Francisco has thousands more data sets sitting around that should be made public.
There is no reason that San Francisco should fall behind cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia in releasing data. To fight the way back to the forefront of the open-data movement, Chiu and Mayor Ed Lee have crafted legislation that would create a new mayoral appointment position in The City: the Chief Data Officer. It would be this person’s job to better coordinate the flow of information from The City to the public.
The Board of Supervisors needs to approve this new position when it takes up the issue this week. The push for innovation is not a singular shove, but a long struggle, and San Francisco needs to regain its position as a leader.