Open Data: Embracing 21st Century Economic Development in California

As featured on Government Technology
By: Mike Montgomery and Brian Purchia

We launched an Open Government working group for the State of California earlier this year – with our most recent roundtable at San Francisco-based accelerator Runway last week – to increase collaboration between government and the civic startup community.

This group will benefit people and communities through enhanced services utilizing open data. The benefits to the public, including transparency and reduction in lag time to inquiries are astounding as are the benefits to governmental offices, which include a decrease in paperwork and staff hours on public information requests, for example.

The idea we espouse sounds simple enough, in theory. If government agencies and offices were to institute forward-looking open data policies statewide then the growing industry of civic-focused startups will grow exponentially. These civic entrepreneurs will create new products and platforms that will continue to increase government efficiency, while the reduction in costs to taxpayers will undoubtedly have a net-positive impact on society.

One example is BuildingEye, a civic startup that has created a real-time map with all of the locations that have building permits in the cities in which BuildingEye operates. The San Francisco Entrepreneur in Residence company makes it easier for the public to see what is going to be built in your neighborhood with a click of button. Currently, though, BuildingEye only works in a handful of cities that have opened their data.

At our second open data roundtable hosted at San Francisco-based accelerator Runway last week, we charted a roadmap to bring new policies to unlock civic innovation. While the geographic boundaries of our goals are limited to city, county and state agencies within California, what we accomplish can be shared and borrowed by municipalities across the country as a blueprint for collaboration between tech, government and its inhabitants.

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