San Francisco CIO Chris Vein and federal CIO Vivek Kundra seem to be reading from the same script when explaining the virtues of open government and data transparency.

But their vision for the future doesn't always run parallel. Vein told Government Technology on Tuesday that DataSF.org -- a newly launched Web portal "clearinghouse" for data sets published by San Francisco's city/county government -- will likely evolve differently than a similar Web portal that Kundra launched last year when he was the CIO of Washington, D.C.

Kundra championed the D.C. Data Catalog -- a Web site giving the public access to more than 300 data sets once held only by the district's government agencies. He later used that data as the source material for the Apps for Democracy contest, which challenges private citizens to build open source applications that present the data in valuable ways for the public. The utility of DataSF.org, on the other hand, could follow a different path, Vein said.

"There's also somewhat a feeling in the community that [the Apps for Democracy contest] has been done -- that actually what the open source community wants is more recognition than some small amount of money," Vein said. "What we're thinking about doing is having an 'apps store,' if we can legally do this. It would be showing on the portal Web site those solutions that are created, and highlighting the names and the work of the people that did it."

If the concept of a digital storefront sounds familiar, that's because Kundra said last month that the federal government will build an online storefront that would allow federal agencies to purchase cloud computing services in real time. That purchasing vehicle would likely be made available to state and local governments, if they so choose.

Vein said he has had informal brainstorming conversations with Kundra and Beth Noveck, the head of President Barack Obama's open government initiative, about someday linking together Web sites like DataSF.org, the digital storefronts and other resources to make a "vertical" of all levels of government. Vein said it would be complex, but possible.

But a project like that is far down the road, if it happens at all. Right now, Vein and his staff are focused on perfecting the beta version of DataSF.org. About 50 data sets are available so far -- such as a building permit database, election precincts crime calls for service.

The Web site is a pillar of the OpenSF initiative, Mayor Gavin Newsom's commitment to open source, open data and open participation.

"I think this is really part of a broader strategy, and it's not just about the data sets," Vein said. "It's about how we can use Web 2.0 technologies as well, because what we're playing with here -- as we did with RecoverySF [economic Web site] -- is this ability for the public to begin a dialog with government and with each other."

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor