This San Francisco Chronicle article tells the story well: city government makes bold plans to update its information systems; city government lacks the resources to keep up with communications technology development in the private sector; city government opens data; private developers do the work for them. That is the general story behind the Summer of Smart event held in San Francisco this past summer. Private web and mobile developers came together with employees of city government and others interested in spurring the technological advance of city communications tools.
One of the apps developed at the event, SMART Muni, comes as a direct result of open access to public transit data. It provides both Muni administrators and Muni riders with real-time data on emergencies or delays in the system by using GPS data feeds sent directly from the vehicles. The creators of the app, which come from very diverse backgrounds, envision a more fluidly managed system that results in fewer delays and happier customers.
One salient point made by the Chronicle writer was that in the past, citizens’ only method of engagement with the government was through protest, voting, or paying taxes. Today, they can engage through positive and constructive means, shaping their own civic engagement process. Happier customers indeed.
- Terra Curtis