February 17, 2011 By Karen Stewartson
“I feel like we barely scratched the surface in San Francisco,” said Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California, about instituting change and empowering citizens. As former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom ignited transparency efforts with open source platform site DataSF.org, a clearinghouse of city and county data sets that residents can use to create innovative applications. By giving citizens access to government data, they can design government in their own image, which Newsom believes is true democratization of information.
As lieutenant governor, Newsom hopes to replicate some of the changes he implemented in San Francisco statewide. “I’ve already gotten legislation drafted to require California to dramatically distribute information accordingly,” Newsom said, adding that he expects to face bureaucratic resistance.
Although Newsom is green to his current role, he’s no stranger to green initiatives. During his tenure as mayor, San Francisco had the highest recycling rate in the nation, and in 2010, was awarded the Green Power Leadership Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for generating homegrown energy — which can be credited to programs like mandatory composting and recycling, rebates for citizens who retrofit their homes and businesses with solar panels, and the city’s biodiesel fleet.
Under Newsom’s leadership, San Francisco also became the first city government to adopt a formal open source policy, which requires city agencies to consider open source technology as a cost-saving method. As a result of using open source software, residents can make 311 service requests via Twitter — arguably more reason to advocate open source software.
Newsom hopes that these technology changes will continue to grow. “I’m excited about the ember that exists in terms of some of the examples,” Newsom said of his accomplishments. “True democracy is about real engagement, real empowerment and power comes that comes through transparency in terms of information and that engagement between government and technology is a means to deliver that.”
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