Startups say open data legislation would lead to more innovation

COURTESY PHOTOMark Farrell is the only member of the Board of Supervisors who currently holds a job outside of City Hall.

Tech startups are rallying behind proposed open-data legislation that would wrest more information from city departments for technology innovation.

Under legislation submitted by Supervisor Mark Farrell, city departments would have to appoint data coordinators within three months, The City would need to hire a chief data officer and within six months departments must post a catalogue of their data that could be made public. Additionally, within one year, an open-data implementation plan must be created.

The goal is to hold departments to strict deadlines in releasing data to support the fast-growing civic tech startup industry’s effort to capitalize on the information, Farrell says. More data means more innovation. Health scores on Yelp, Recreation and Park facility locations and arrival times for Muni are among the open-data information being used on smartphone applications. Other apps under development include locations to obtain free meals or where to find civic art pieces.

“We are now about to become a venture-backed startup, which is a major feat for a civic startup,” said Yo Yoshida, the founder and CEO of Appallicious, a civic tech startup in The City. Yoshida said that open data “became a movement a few years ago and now it’s literally turning into an industry. I think there’s at least about 20 or 30 civic startups coming out of Silicon Valley and San Francisco that use and consume open data to create useful products for the public.”

He said Farrell’s legislation is necessary.

“We look forward to putting some teeth into the open-data movement through this legislation,” Yoshida said. “We do have some snafus with some departments not being able to release it quick enough to give the developers the ability to create products from this and create industry and jobs and move the movement forward.”

The legislation was approved Thursday by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee and is expected to be approved by the full board.

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