New-York_City-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San Franciscans are some of the most creative and innovative people in the world, but our city government can be so outdated and ineffective?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.