San Francisco has led the nation with Gov 2.0 innovations, like Twitter311 – connecting the City’s 311 Call Center to Twitter — allowing residents to contact the City about potholes, graffiti and interact with government in real time with a tweet, DataSF.org – the City’s one stop shop for government data that has empowered developers to create incredible apps that bring city data to life, and Open311 the first national API in government.
These initiatives are saving the City money, bringing more people into the political process and inspiring other communities to do the same. But, San Francisco like other cities is just scratching the surface.
There is much more that can be done immediately in San Francisco and communities all over the country to make government more efficient and transparent using technology.
One way to improve transparency is to make it as simple as possible for various San Francisco departments to share with the public and each other how much and what they are spending on technology. We know San Francisco’s government spends millions of dollars annually on technology, but it is extremely difficult for various departments — let alone citizens to easily access this information. However, there is a solution that is freely available today.
In 2009, President Obama rolled out the IT Dashboard to shed light on $80 billion in federal IT spending. The Dashboard tracks government technology expenditures — allowing the public to monitor how their money is being spent. Earlier this year, it was estimated that the IT Dashboard had saved the federal government $3 billion by eliminating or reducing unnecessary tech expenditures.
In March 2011, the White House working with Code for America and Civic Commons made the technology behind the Dashboard freely available for any government to use. Now, any city or state can implement the IT Dashboard in their community, but nobody has yet.
A new report released today on technology’s role in civic engagement and local government in California from the New America Foundation/Zócalo, Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West and the James Irvine Foundation stresses the need for innovations like the Dashboard, saying “while cost savings are critical, tools and standards for measuring communities’ information needs — and the inclusivity and effectiveness of the projects being proposed — are needed as well.”
The City By the Bay should lead by example and implement the IT Dashboard to save money and increase civic engagement. But, any city or town can do the same. Ask your elected officials to bring the IT Dashboard to your community. I’ve started an online petition calling for San Francisco City leaders to bring the IT Dashboard to San Francisco’s City Hall.
It’s time our political leaders ramped up the use of 21st century tools that are freely available to make our government more transparent — this will help restore trust in its institutions and empower a new generation of leaders.
If you are in the Bay Area and want to learn more about open government and the newly released report, “Hear Us Now? A California Survey of Digital Technology’s Role in Civic Engagement and Local Government” join me at Stanford on October 26th for a discussion about the report with Gov 2.0 leaders. It’s free, just like the IT Dashboard. You can RSVP here.