Steve Spiker is so right re local government and innovate–or stagnate

My friend Steve Spiker was at a Code for America announcement in San Francisco today that triggered some strong feelings on his part. And he’s right on.  Not only is Oakland–our town–right across the bridge from SF, we have tons of the CFA people living here. And yet…we’re not, as a city, doing half of what SF is to support open data, live apps, etc.

Some of Steve’s points that resonated with me:
“Many of our tech problems have been solved in other cities and all we
need to to is pick from existing open sourced applications and implement
them in our town.”

From my work here are a few quick areas that I’ve seen solutions for either out of CfA or in the Civic Commons:

  • Contracting processes: currently a small
    business contract with the city for perhaps a few thousand dollars
    requires the business to complete approximately 12 different documents,
    from word docs to locked PDFs, so they must print them all and fill them
    out by hand, and then submit copies. I can only imagine the city
    process for recording and managing these various forms when they are
    received. Take a look at the SmartPDF work in SF for a powerful
    solution, or just make the effort to combine all these forms into a
    single, fill-able PDF at the very least, and one day perhaps implement
    web based forms?
  • Adopt an Open311 system for calls for service. This
    platform, developed in SF and DC is an open source 311 system that has
    open connectors and a new public dashboard feature developed by CFA. Very powerful and no proprietary software required.
  • Work with the county to build a unified property addressing system.
  • Implement across the OUSD and help our teachers keep in touch with their students via SMS – perfect for a community with low internet access at home!
  • Implement ChangeByUs, a great new tool for community engagement and collaboration.
  • Implement an OpenData policy and work with our tech
    community to build an OpenData portal for our city. Free up valuable
    city data to encourage innovation, engagement and new startups! We’re
    doing this anyway, but it should be supported by our city!

Steve, you are so right.