City of Los Angeles launches open data pilot and survey

Upon election, I wondered whether Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti would reboot Los Angeles city government for the 21st century. After 4 months, there are several promising green shoots to report.

First, Mayor Garcetti vowed to modernize city government in the City of Angels, posting agency performance statistics online and reviewing all departments. Now, the City of Los Angeles has launched its own open data pilot project using ESRI’s ArcGIS platform.


For veterans of such efforts, a portal to mapping data may not be particularly exciting or useful, but it’s a start. Notably, the city has put up an online survey where people can request other kind of city data and suggest changes or improvements to the pilot website.

Here’s a few suggestions:

1) Study how the cities of Chicago and New York cleaned, published and used data, including market demand.

2) Talk to the data desk at the Los Angeles Times. If you want your city’s performance data to be used by media for accountability and transparency, address their concerns.

3) Make a list of every single request for data made by journalists in Los Angeles under the California Records ActRelease the data and proactively publish that type of data going forward.

4) If your goal is economic outcomes from open data, review all requests for city data from businesses and prioritize release of those data sets. Engage startups and venture capitalists who are consuming open data and ask about quality, formats and frequency of release.

5) Check out New York City’s gorgeous new open data site and the ongoing release of more data sets. Set those free, too.

6) Check out the new, and in the United Kingdom for ideas, principles and models. Of note: the use of open standards, citizen-centricity, adaptive Web design, powerful search, focus on modern design aesthetic.

Good luck, LA!

Will Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti reboot Los Angeles government for the 21st century?

eric-garcettiYesterday, Los Angeles city councilman Eric Garcetti won the Los Angeles mayor’s race.

Garcetti, at 42, is the youngest LA mayor in half a century and will be the city’s first Jewish mayor. LA’s new mayor is also a former Rhodes scholar, a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, Naval Reservist and supporter of modernizing technology in city government.

Garcetti’s history on that last count had some observers wondering whether Los Angeles’ next mayor would ‘go geek’. He told “Neon Tommy,” a digital publication from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg program, that “he would make data a priority by creating a new position for it and appointing a ‘true’ chief technology officer.”

As a city councilman, Garcetti called for LA city data to be opened up to its people and authored a motion that will go before the council this spring.

“I look forward this fall to seeing the city opening the doors to data sharing, citizen participation, hackathons, and other ways we can build a truly 21st-century government,” said Garcetti at a campaign event prior to his election, according to Neon Tommy.

How fluent is LA’s new mayor on the language of technology and digital governance?

You can judge for yourself in the video embedded below, filmed during July 2012 at the Silicon Beach Fest.

Under this new mayor, will the second-most populous city in the United States take substantive steps to improve civic services and accountability?

While there’s reason to be hopeful, any new initiatives will have to be balanced against the city’s growing budget deficit and calibrated to a highly mobile, multi-lingual population.

As Paresh Dave explored in his feature, other cities are experimenting with open data, mobile applications and citizen engagement to varied effect.

Garcetti’s administration would benefit from taking pages from the technology playbooks of other cities, in particular Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York and Portland. Angelenos will need him to learn (quickly) from the mistakes of other cities and expand upon their success.

Tying the issues that Garcetti ran on to the goals the new administration will set priorities for legislation, policy and initiatives.

Given the considerable economic and cultural diversity of the City of Angels, his administration will need to support fundamental democratic principles in any new initiatives, from a participation divide to plain language in multiple languages to disparities in broadband Internet. LA will need a better digital divide strategy, perhaps centered upon libraries, schools and community centers, to ensure that more equitable civic participation in open government efforts around policies, regulations or proposed council orders.

His campaign promises on technology reflect some of those priorities and an appreciation of the challenges. Implementation will, as always, be another matter.