Beyond Information Without Impact
By: Eric Jaye
Here’s the good news – the idea that governments should collect feedback from residents is gaining broader acceptance under the banner of Gov. 2.0.
Here’s the bad news – most of it is, and will continue to be, ignored unless we create ways to hold our political leaders accountable to this data.
Time for Gov. 2.0 to Go Beyond Open Data
Open data is a great tool – but at the end of the day a better app to tell me just how late my bus is going to be only goes so far. What we need is data that forces the political leadership to respond to why the bus is still late and how they are going to fix the problem.
So here’s a simple idea to start implementing Gov 2.0 in practice. Our interim Mayor Ed Lee is starting to appear before the Board of Supervisors for a new San Francisco tradition – “Question Time.” This import is from the British model of parliamentary democracy (a great show if you’ve every seen it on BBC America).
The politicians now have time to ask their questions.
But what about the rest of us?
How about asking the Mayor to respond not just to the questions of other politicians – but also to the facts being gathered by the city’s 311 system, particularly the complaints and customer feedback generated by 311.
The 311 Director could come and give a simple report. Something like, “Mayor – 328 people complained this month about lack of reliable transit. Any response?”
Not Just Gathering Government Data – Acting On It
At its best, 311 is more than a glorified switchboard. It is a way to create the clear accountability of data. When 311 was successfully sold in tough budget battles, it was called the civic equivalent of the successful Compstat systems that have been used to create accountability and better management in police departments around the nation.
The switchboard function of 311 is working very well. And the training of those manning the center seems uniformly excellent. It is truly a world-class switchboard.
But what about the data? Where is the accountability? Who is being held accountable to the information collected, and how?
Since reform at its best starts at the top – let’s start at the top.
Have the Mayor respond, in public, to the data being collected by 311.
If the 311 Director shows up and reports that complaints are down and compliments are up – the Mayor can take a well-deserved public bow.
And if the data show busses are still late, streets are still dirty, taxies still don’t come on time, San Francisco parking tickets are still a trap for the unwary and we still can’t find a place to buy a Clipper Card – our mayors can respond to that data as well.
Open data is a great first step and San Francisco has led the way in this field. Now let’s lead on data that creates political accountability.