Is New York City Taking the Lead as the Capitol of America’s Digital Economy?

By: Phil Ting

Road Map for the Digital CityNew York City's Mayor Bloomberg has just unveiled the “Road Map for the Digital City: Achieving New York City’s Digital Future – an impressive 65-page plan that highlights the city’s commitment to using technology to increase access, open government, civic engagement and support for the digital job sector.

I hate to say it, but New York has taken the temporary lead here – and now San Francisco has to play catch up. We live in a competitive world – and San Francisco can’t afford to relinquish our leadership in the digital economy.

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This matters because cities like New York, San Francisco, Bangalore, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Washington, DC are all vying to capture the jobs of the emerging digital economy. City government can and should set the tone by building the physical and online infrastructure required to promote these jobs. But local government can do much more than that. We can set an example by moving government itself into the digital era.

Why is it that San Franciscans are some of the most creative and innovative people in the world, but our city government can be so outdated and ineffective? One of the reasons is that we are a 21st Century city still largely managed by a 19th Century style city government.

It takes more than Twitter and Zynga to be a model digital city. It takes a commitment from City Hall itself to be a model government. And that starts with embracing the kind of Gov 2.0 online tools that make government more nimble and give our residents more power to get – and stay – engaged in civic life.

San Francisco has long led in many of these areas – but Mayor Bloomberg and his team have now raised the bar.  New York’s Road Map reports these stats, and they are impressive:

  • 200 social media channels
  • 202 million pageviews of NYC.GOV in 2010
  • 4,000 points of civic engagement
  • 4 million individuals reached each month

Here’s a comparative analysis of page views in the last 6 months for NYC.GOV (blue) and SFGOV.ORG (red):













And here’s another comparison. New Yorkers spend much more time on their city’s site than San Franciscans: 













Here’s an impressive statistic – of the 4 million individuals reached every month by New York City's digital government, 1.2 million, or 30 percent, engage with the city through social media such as Facebook, Twitter or digital newsletters. 

If San Francisco’s government utilized social media and Web 2.0 tools more effectively, would you be more likely to engage in local government?

We need to win this battle – for more than bragging rights. More and more of the jobs of the future will come from the emerging digital economy. That’s why we should follow New York’s example as part of our concerted effort to do New York City one better – it is time to create a real San Francisco Road Map to secure our leadership in the online economy.

Without such a road map, San Francisco could get lost and left behind in this digital age. Our future depends on staying competitive and keeping a strong commitment to a technological infrastructure in order to be the leading, model city that we all know – and want – us to be.


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social media utilization

Yes, these points are all absolutely true. So where's our 65 page plan? 
Oh and why are we using instead of sf.ogv? It seems to be available...

Barry Hooper's picture

Room for improvement, but give SF a little credit ...

It's great that the mayor's race and organizations like the Gray Area Foundation For the Arts are working to build citizen engagement initiatives that use Gov 2.0 approaches.  But let's give a little credit to the tech, social service, social media, and public sectors in SF. Open Gov and Gov 2.0 are powerful forces to nurture, and SF has been watering and pruning right a long with NYC. I think NYC is following our lead. Check out, and the applications empowered citizens have been developing with open data from SF agencies. Is transparency complete or the best it could be? No, there's plenty more data to be made easier to access and more regularly up to date.
New York's population is 23x San Francisco (18.9 million vs. 800k.)  So per capita, we SF'ers visit the main city website proportionately more. And how many social media channels do all SF agencies have? 200 seems like a very low estimate, considering that I can hardly go to a department or office holder's website and not find 3 to 8 social media hooks, often including social media channels for very specific programs or initiatives.
Rock on for supporting Gov 2.0!

Phil Ting's picture

Digital Plan

Great point!  We need a Digital Plan too.  Social media is more than Twitter and Facebook - its creating a space where citizens can get information easily but also interface with their government.  Too often citizens are forced to come to City Hall, take time off work and wait in long lines - that's their vision of government.  What if government looked more like Amazon, Google or Facebook - the most common sites on the internet.  How would people react?  Would they interface more or less with government?


Great article. 

So, who's on deck to be SF's Chief Digital Officier? Which mayor candidates have identified their CDO candidates?


Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137