You Never Forget Your First One: Winning LLGA2011 for San Francisco catapults SOCRATA

Not every day does an early-stage startup get an opportunity to shine on the world stage. In early 2011, Socrata then a 12-person software startup in Seattle with about 15 customers, was nominated for a Living Labs Global Award in Stockholm, by the City of San Francisco.

The Living Labs Global award recognizes innovation in cities, creating a highly visible global forum to reward cities and their technology partners for daring to try bold new approaches to solving problems. A perfect opportunity for a startup.

Socrata was fortunate to have partnered with one the world’s most innovative cities. Years before Open Data became mainstream, San Francisco realized that its data was a strategic, but idle asset, with vast untapped potential to increase the city’s service capacity and transform its relationship with residents.

San Francisco started opening up and releasing its data years ago. As the initiative gained momentum, however, San Francisco realized that it needed a scalable platform that can support the entire data-to-information continuum, from capture and collection to distribution and consumption, in the most cost-effective way possible.

In May 2011, San Francisco and Socrata won the Living Labs Global Award for their innovative plan to migrate the city’s Open Data to a new cloud-based Socrata-powered platform. On March 9th, 2012, Mayor Edwin Lee affirmed City’s ongoing commitment to Open Data through the manifestation of this plan, aptly named The website puts City data online in a way that makes it useful to citizens, businesses, developers and even city employees.

Jay Nath, the City’s Chief Information Officer told The San Francisco Chronicle, “We had all this raw data, and you had to be an uber geek to figure it all out. This platform makes it easier.”

The new Socrata-powered San Francisco Open Data Cloud offers a wide variety of feature, architecture, and performance enhancements, including:

  • Simple, easy-to-use, citizen interfaces that allow non-technical users to interactively explore data, visualize it, and share contextually-relevant information with others, on the site, across the web, and on social networks.
  • Automatic full-text indexing of every data set’s content to facilitate online search, in addition to the ability to download the data in multiple, open, machine-readable formats.
  • Automatic API access to every data set, via the Socrata Open Data API (SODA) and access to technical support and online developer resources, which will lower the access barrier for civic developers.

Mayor Lee told TechCrunch, “Making City data more accessible to the public secures San Francisco’s future as the world’s first 2.0 City. It’s only natural that we move our Open Data platform to the cloud and adopt modern open interfaces to facilitate the flow of information and develop better tools to enhance City services.”

Jay Nath adds, “Two years ago, when we launched, Open Data was a visionary experiment in reinventing the government of the future. Today, with increasing worldwide adoption, we view Open Data as part of our new cloud infrastructure to deliver citizen, social, and programmatic interfaces to government services, in a much more cost-effective and agile model.”

San Francisco will continue to be one of the nation’s trailblazers in data as a platform for innovation. Socrata, now boasting over 50 of the world’s top public sector organizations like New York City, the World Bank and the United Nations, has grown by leaps and bounds since then and is now the recognized market leader in Open Data. The people of Socrata will always remember fondly the first award that recognized their work with one of the best cities anywhere in the world!