Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Open Data Meets Hyperlocal in San Francisco

Once again San Francisco renews its claim to be the most open city in America, and the most open government.

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of, a new website offering citizens access to raw, machine-readable government data on a wide range of issues from crime and housing to health inspections and street repairs.

The basic idea behind this initiative? Open data drives innovation. Free access to information gathered by government enables developers and citizen entrepreneurs to create new applications and online services. Open data is exactly what will power the growth of hyperlocal websites, which cater to the interests and needs of local communities.

The emergence of hyperlocal news and online services is already a trend receiving much attention, and investment. MSNBC’s acquisition of EveryBlock, a hyperlocal news aggregator, is one recent example, but not the only one. AOL and even the New York Times have entered the hyper-local space.

Finding the right business model for hyperlocal sites will be a challenge. For every MSNBC and AOL buying in, there is a Washington Post exiting. Success requires real community participation, not always easy to sustain when the website belongs to a big corporate entity, as well as a local advertising base will to spend.

Still, more governments offering open data is a good thing, promoting transparency and public accountability, regardless of whether hyperlocal websites succeed or not.

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