San Francisco Mayor Signs Landmark Open Data Policy and Procedures Legislation

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee last week signed into law the Citywide Coordination of Open Data Policy and Procedures legislation introduced jointly with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.  This new landmark Open Data law establishes the position and duties of a new Chief Data Officer to be appointed by the Mayor, and orders that departmental data coordinators assist in the implementation of the Open Data Policy.  The ordinance also establishes rules and procedures for making open data available through the city’s open data web portal.

This initiative began in 2009 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, who issued an Executive Directive promoting open data policies.  In 2010, the Board of Supervisors passed the City’s Open Data Policy (Ordinance 293-10) codified in San Francisco’s Administrative Code Section 22D.  Among the expected benefits to citizens are increased government efficiency and civic engagement, leading to social and economic benefits:  (1) fostering citizen participation in City projects; (2) increased citizen interaction with municipal government; (3) supporting early state entrepreneurship; (4) workforce development and job creation; and (5) fostering a positive business environment and promoting public-private partnerships.

According to Jay Nath, chief innovation officer for the Office of Mayor Edwin Lee, the new chief data officer will report to the mayor’s budget director.  Further, the departmental data coordinators will be identified from existing staff at the approximately 50 City departments, board, commission and agencies (“departments”).

According to Section 22D(a), the new chief data officer will be responsible for “sharing City data with the public, facilitating the sharing of information between city departments and analyzing how data sets can be used to improve city decision making.”  The data coordinator will be designated by each city department, and will oversee implementation and compliance with the Open Data Policy with that department.  Each city department is charged with making reasonable efforts to make available all data sets under the department’s control while complying with privacy laws, prepare an Open Data plan for its department, establishing a timeline for the publication of the open data including a summary of the open data efforts planned or underway in that department, summarize the data sets under the department’s control, prioritize the data sets for inclusion on the DataSF website, and comply with the data set guidelines.

Data sets will be made available free of charge to the public through the web portal.  Data sets containing personally identifiable information or representing potential breaches to security or privacy are to be flagged for potential exclusion from DataSF.

The current Open Data Portal (called “San Francisco Data” and located on the web at https://data.sfgov.org/) is provided by the City and County of San Francisco to “enhance open government, transparency, and accountability by providing access to data by residents and businesses.”  It puts in one place all approved city data that help constituents make better use of information.  Only city or county employees may publish data to the portal.  It is anticipated that the new data sets will be added to this website and significantly enhanced.

According to a recently released April 4th Municipal Open Data Policies study by the San Diego Regional Data Library (http://www.sandiegodata.org/2013/04/report-municipal-open-data-policies/), only eight cities nationwide have adopted Open Data Policies:  Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Vancouver, Portland, Austin, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.  “Creating an Open Data policy is a powerful commitment to openness, transparency, and public participation, and with advancing technology, it is a policy that is easy to implement and manage,” concluded the San Diego study. “Open data projects have been run not only at many cities, but many states as well, providing a base of experience that gives cities a straightforward way to demonstrate their desire for better, more efficient government.”

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About Rachelle Chong

Rachelle Chong is a nationally known expert on telecommunications, broadband, wireless communications, cable, digital literacy, public safety communications, renewable energy and smart grid policy. She is a former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (Clinton appointee) and the California Public Utilities Commission (Schwarzenegger appointee). Other notable posts include Vice President, Government Affairs for Comcast California Region; Special Counsel for Advanced Information and Communications Technology for the CA Technology Agency; a partner at two international law firms (Graham & James and Coudert Brothers); General Counsel for Broadband Office; and an entrepreneur. Rachelle is delighted to brush off her Journalism degree from Cal Berkeley, and serve as a columnist for Techwire, focusing on federal and state policies and the San Francisco and Silicon Valley tech/telecom beats.

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