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San Francisco mayor asks tech sector to invest in government

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Mayor Ed Lee.
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San Francisco leaders want The City to run more smoothly, and Mayor Ed Lee is hoping the private sector can help.

The self-proclaimed “tech mayor” announced on Friday the creation of an “entrepreneurship-in-residence” program at City Hall. The government-run incubator is geared toward persuading Silicon Valley to become involved in civic affairs — and the ample market for goods and services in the public sector.

Jay Nath, Lee's chief innovation officer, said The City could use help on a wide front, from making decisions based on publicly available data, to getting more money out of public assets, to tracking energy purchases.

Specifically, Lee is looking for “significant innovation and growth in areas of pressing importance such as data, mobile and cloud services; health care; education; transportation; energy; and infrastructure,” incubator head Rahul Mewawalla, a former executive at Yahoo, said in a statement.

City leaders want up to five teams of civic-minded business types to get working in October and complete their public products within four months, the Mayor's Office said Friday.

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Government purchases are a $142 billion market nationwide, according to the Mayor's Office, which is the biggest market for products of any kind.

Participating teams in the incubator won't be paid, according to a report on Forbes.com. They will, however, have the ability to present their products to other governments after working directly with city employees and department heads.

During the 2011 mayoral election, Lee benefited from his ties to Silicon Valley. Since then, he has helped usher in tax breaks for tech companies and supported changes to The City's business tax that passed at the ballot box last year.

There also are technology-driven innovations in city government underway.

Code For America fellows have been working with The City's Human Services Agency, which manages services for poor and indigent people. The team has created a text message notification system that notifies enrollees when they have been dropped from food stamps or other benefits, said Marc Hebért, one of the four fellows. The team also is working to transition the JobsNOW program from paper to online.

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