San Francisco Approves Open Data Standard


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved a new measure from Supervisor Mark Farrell that will create an open data standard for the city. CivSource has previously reported on efforts in this vein with applications that seek to both use and standardize local housing data. The new standard ensures that data is 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.

A recent report from Mckinsey & Company notes that open data can help unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion in economic value worldwide annually across seven distinct sectors. San Francisco is aiming to be the first national model for open data standardization at the municipal level.

In addition to making data machine readable, Farrell also wants to ensure that data is being released quickly and is pushing to tighten release timelines for city offices. The proposal would designate Department Data Coordinators to oversee implementation and compliance with the open data policy within his/her respective department within three months of passage. Additionally, by the six month mark, each department will have to conduct a review of their progress on providing access to data sets requested by the public through the designated web portal, as well as publish on DataSF a catalogue of their department’s data that can be made public, including both raw datasets and APIs.

Within one year, the Chief Data Officer shall present an updated citywide open data implementation plan to the Committee on Information Technology, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors.

“Tighter deadlines regarding the release of open data sets creates certainty that will be extremely beneficial to the public and entrepreneur community,” stated Supervisor Farrell. “With more certainty, entrepreneurs and the public can 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. We are creating an atmosphere that will spur innovation, discovery, and growth.”

Supervisor Farrell’s ordinance also creates, for the first time, a mechanism for the public and entrepreneur community to interact with city staff and departments who will be responsible for cataloguing, updating and uploading appropriate government data sets.

Throughout the legislative process of this ordinance, Supervisor Farrell also solicited input and feedback from the open data community by hosting his legislation on the popular data repository site, GitHub. The first vote was a success, and a second and perfunctory vote on the ordinance is set to happen at the December 17, 2013 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.