Mayor Liccardo’s Smart City Vision will bring greater transparency to San José


Yesterday, the San José City Council approved Mayor Sam Liccardo’s plan to transform the city through the use of technology and data-driven decision-making, solidifying the city’s place as a leader in innovation and an outstanding example of what transparent and accountable government should look like.  

Liccardo’s Smart City Vision will leverage new technologies to help the community overcome the consequences of the past several years of budget cuts and reductions in staff capacity. The plan calls for integrating digital tools into the everyday work of city staff and incorporating a holistic digital strategy to improve city operations and service delivery for residents.

Some of the activities involved in the mayor’s strategy include: expanding the use of data analytics to improve public safety; making online services easier to access and use; providing Internet access to a broader range of users; developing partnerships with private-sector actors, the academic community and other organizations to enhance opportunities for collaboration; and — near and dear to Sunlight’s heart — utilizing open data to improve the public’s access to information.

The plan calls for releasing data in user-friendly, machine-readable formats, which is critical to maximizing the public’s ability to access and interact with these data. The plan also seeks to use data to both inform residents about the city’s activities and to inform decision-making within City Hall. Sunlight is encouraged to see that the initiative also creates a mechanism for accountability for the program itself. It establishes a City Council Committee on Smart City and Continuous Improvement to track the city’s progress toward the project’s goals.

Sunlight has been working with San José over the past several months to support city staff in their efforts to draft an open data policy. We are pleased to see San José build upon this existing open data work with its Smart City Vision, using technology and open data to achieve the city’s goals.

The culture shift required of an overhaul like this could prove to be a major hurdle. The city needs to be prepared to sell these ideas internally to the city staff who will be expected to shift current practices, more frequently utilizing data to drive the work they do each day, and sharing that data with the public. The city still has a long way to go to live up to its reputation as the “capital of Silicon Valley,” but this plan a major step in the right direction.

Liccardo has set out to make San José the most innovative city in the country by 2020. The City Council’s approval of the Smart City Vision is a major step in this direction. Furthermore, it’s a huge win for the open data community. Ultimately, we believe this plan will be instrumental in building upon the city’s open data program to enable a full set of digital tools and approaches needed to ensure a transparent and accountable 21st century democracy.

Read Sunlight’s letter of support for Smart City Vision below: