San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has announced a plan to place the city's data online for use in applications and services that anyone can create. In Newsom's own words:
The new web site will provide a clearinghouse of structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format. For example, there will be updated crime incident data from the police department and restaurant inspection data from the Department of Public Health. The initial phase of the web site includes more than 100 datasets, from a range of city departments, including Police, Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.
We imagine creative developers taking apartment listings and city crime data and mashing it up to help renters find their next home or an iPhone application that shows restaurant ratings based on health code violations.
It's kind of funny how revolutionary this feels, don't you think? Accessing data that we already own through the web...seems like this should have been done a decade ago. This should be the norm for cities and states across the union.
But sadly, it isn't. And so Newsom and the SF bureaucrats deserve congratulations for making the first step. Let's hope all our local, state, and federal agencies quickly follow suit. Because a government of, for, and by the people should make every reasonable effort to make free and unfettered access to the information upon which our institutions run.