City's Data Release Could Boost Indie Apps

It may not shock you to learn that San Francisco city government does not have a lot of information at its fingertips.

Despite a recent push to publicize City data in standardized formats, only 167 sets of data have been made available online. Among them are such spellbinders as
SFO Noise Exceedance Data, Port of San Francisco 2010 Cruise Schedule, and City College of San Francisco Budget Forecast (2010-11 and 2011-12). Don't all break out your reading glasses at once.

Gavin Newsom plans to solidify the new rule that directs City departments to publicize their data. In turn, that data can be slurped up by independent software developers and turned into useful applications. Case in point: the helpful Muniverse app, which is designed to help Muni riders re-route around delays.

But how successful will the directive be if departments simply ignore it? For example, the backwards-named Recreation and Park Department hasn't posted a single data set. Of course, many departments are already up to their ears in work, so it's understandable that R&P might be too busy fixing playgrounds and seeding grass to upload a couple Excel spreadsheets.

But government transparency is a long-term investment, and advocates of placing data online say that the City can't afford to lag behind with decades-old websites for much longer.

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