November 2, 2011

By: Phil Ting

We’ve said fairly often over the last year here at Reset that we deserve a city government as innovative as San Franciscans. And today we’re excited to announce that we’ve had yet another breakthrough in proving it is possible to make our government dramatically more effective.

Today, Reset San Francisco is excited to announce the winner of our mobile app contest to develop an automated towing notification system that allows drivers to know when they’re in a tow away zone.

What would have taken San Francisco city government years and cost city taxpayers up to a million dollars to accomplish under the current Gov 1.0 mindset, the Reset community has completed in less that two months for just $1,000.

Think about that multiple for a second – and we are not exaggerating. It takes years and years and sometimes shocking amounts of money for the city to make technology upgrades. The recent SFPark app, for example, cost millions of dollars.

Using Gov 2.0 tools, we got it done in a fraction of time for a miniscule portion of what it would have cost the taxpayers – my campaign is paying the $1,000 prize, so this app cost taxpayers nothing (you’re welcome).

Imagine all the things we could accomplish if government could be this fast and this effective more often. That’s what our Reset San Francisco community is all about – working to help government catch up to San Franciscans, so the world’s very best city has the word’s very best city government

Using The Power To The Reset Community To Build the Mobile Tow Application

Early this year our Reset members started talking with us about the terrible burden created by having a car towed. At Reset we are all about making Muni better, supporting bike options and creating a more walkable San Francisco – but there are some times when people simply must drive. But when their car is towed, it can cost well over $700, which can literally bankrupt a struggling family.

At Reset San Francisco, we crowdsourced a question: How can we reduce the number of people who have their cars towed in San Francisco? Instead of commissioning a costly and time consuming “study,” we put the question to the people of San Francisco and offered $1,000 prize for the most innovative idea.

Aren Sandersen, developer of Parkzing – a free mobile application that uses both street cleaning and tow way zone information, worked with the Reset San Francisco team to develop an app that alerts drivers 10 minutes before a tow zone is in effect and also 9pm the night before morning street cleanings.

As soon as a driver parks, he or she launches the application, selects the street location based on the app’s built-in GPS technology and then sees a screen with the time and location information. It’s that easy.

What was also pretty easy was realizing that if we simply asked San Franciscans for their innovative ideas, we’d illustrate yet again that our city government can and should do more to harness the intellect that our city possesses and put it to use for all San Franciscans.

By implementing Gov 2.0 strategies and embracing the idea of crowdsourcing complex problems, we can make government so much more effective than imaginable, and we can do it at a speed that is so much faster than we’re used to at City Hall.

San Franciscans have been clamoring for this product. Supervisor David Chiu introduced legislation to study the idea. Mayor Ed Lee told the press he supports the idea. But Reset San Francisco is proving we don’t need a two-year, multi-million dollar process mired in the old Government 1.0 mindset. Using web 2.0 tools, Sunshine Requests to get access to the data and a little old-fashioned incentive-based marketing, we were able to do in less than two months and for just $1,000 – what would have taken City Hall two years and perhaps even millions of dollars to accomplish.

This race for mayor has degenerated into a series of charges and counter charges. At Reset, we are offering an alternative to the same old politics – we are working right now to deliver a better city. We know it can be done – because we are already doing it.

This should be a proud moment for all of you who have participated in the Reset community and a clear sign that our movement for change can truly change the way San Francisco government works for our citizens.

You can download the Parkzing iPhone app from Apple’s iTunes Store here – and follow Parkzing on Twitter at @ParkzingSF.