Startup Partnerships Drive Open Data, Citizen-Centric Service Efforts in San Leandro, Calif.

The city's new public-facing digital efforts were made possible by relationships developed through the San Francisco-based Startup in Residence Program.

by / November 13, 2017
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San Leandro, Calif., has launched an open data page, a GIS data page and a dashboard to guide citizens to services based on their background, and it's done so with help from companies from the Startup in Residence program (STiR) and an internal geographic information systems (GIS) team.

The open data page launched last week after about four months of tangible work and a longer period of planning, said Tony Batalla, the IT manager for San Leandro. San Leandro has also created a resident dashboard that strives to give users a personalized experience modeling what they’ve come to expect from companies like Amazon. This dashboard, still in its nascent phase, currently divides residents into one of six profiles based on their demographics, and then directs them to services that are most popular among those groups. Batalla described the new features as “baby steps into what government as an Amazon experience is going to be like.”

Both the open data page and the resident dashboard have been made possible through collaborations with tech entrepreneurs that came to San Leandro via STiR, a program designed to facilitate cooperation between the private sector and government, which has long been complicated by several obstacles. STiR, which started in San Francisco in 2014 and is in the process of expanding nationwide, connected San Leandro with LotaData in 2016 and YoGov in 2017.

The feature that LotaData helped bring to San Leandro’s new open data page is called CityDash, and, as its name implies, it’s a dashboard that displays information drawn from 311 and parks and recreation data sets such as debris in the city’s roadways, service calls for overgrown vegetation and other calls for assistance from residents. Users can filter by neighborhood or city council district to view only information relevant to those geographic areas. LotaData long ago provided San Leandro with an internal toolset that allowed public servants to quickly access such information. This new version is a variation that has been stripped of sensitive information and made public-facing.

YoGov helped San Leandro launch the resident dashboard. To use it, residents simply create an account. The dashboard then links them to services based on one of six different profiles.

“We’re trying to create a sense that this is a personalized, unique experience, instead of just logging on to the city home page and seeing everything, the whole kitchen sink,” Batalla said.

He expects the resident dashboard to evolve over time as the city gets more analytics about user preferences, opening the door to more specific classifications and accurate suggestions of what services residents are most interested in accessing.

The third notable associated with the open data page is called geoSL, made with Esri ArcGIS. San Leandro’s internal GIS team has already used it to create several custom maps for information such as zoning and drainage. The city is also using it to display data sets for transportation and other topics.

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.