Open for Government: San Francisco Mayoral Candidates to Debate Tech and Transparency

San Francisco has been a leading city in efforts to open government through technology, data sharing and new media over the past few years, including their version of at, providing detailed information sets about parking, crime, housing, environmental issues and more. It has spawned a wealth of useful applications built on the city information. SF also released an Open311 API (Application Programming Interface) for developers to share and collaborate with other cities. Thursday, June 16, for the first time, nine mayoral candidates will debate issues of open government, technology, innovation and civic engagement in a forum called SFOpen 2011.

Moderated by Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Corp. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the debate will feature questions appropriately crowd sourced by the public. Candidates include Former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, Supervisor John Avalos, Board President David Chiu, Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Former Supervisor Tony Hall, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Venture Capitalist Joanna Rees, Assessor Phil Ting, and State. Senator Leland Yee. The event will be live streamed at beginning at 5:00pm Pacific. See also sf.govfresh where candidates have been profiled and have blogged, as well as providing videos. And It's not too late to submit questions.

Organizers Luke Fretwell of GovFresh and Brian Purchia of have worked for several months to produce the debate. Eight of nine candidates signed the "Open Government Pledge for San Francisco," and the ninth, Tony Hall, declined only because he makes it a policy not to sign others' pledges. The pledge includes supporting transparency, participation, collaboration, and citizen engagement. Other partners include Automattic, Gov 2.0 Radio, CityCampSF, GAFFTA (Gray Area Foundation for the Arts), and Third Thursdays SF.

The debate heralds San Francisco's "Summer of Smart: Democracy in the Digital Age" project created by GAFFTA. A "three-month experiment in urban innovation," local organizers, developers, designers, journalists, civic leaders and planners will get together for local public good. For a city with a rich history of citizen engagement and activism, it will be interesting to see what transpires.

For the mayoral candidates, their job will be to show on Thursday that they have the know-how to work with all of these groups on emerging innovation in open government and that they understand what's at stake if they fail to prove a real commitment to transparency.