I just read this article in Reset San Francisco which asserts that San Francisco is lagging behind New York City in the race to build an online infrastructure to encourage civic engagement and create jobs. Keep in mind that this article was published in May 2011 and I also believe the Reset team was started by a San Francisco politician. The purpose of this post then is to invite discussion and inspire thought for those who care about this city.
Embracing technology, this past spring New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had announced that QR codes would start appearing on construction permits in the city. So, if you’ve ever been wondering what they are building around the corner from your house or workplace, you could simply zap a code with your smart phone and get additional information. I guess that is what they call “transparency in government.” I would presume that this applies to any government project. For the past week, I have been constantly reminded of where my tax dollars are going in my neighborhood. It’s a noisy mess as they are installing new plumbing in the street. That’s great! New pipes! Awesome improvement! However, no QR code for me to access. Bah. So I simply asked one of the workers in the neon vests what was going on. One minute of Q & A. Perhaps QR codes are cool and efficient but inquiring with a human being and taking an organic approach could also be effective. You may also get non-official information not accessible through the code. So my point is this. Technology tools can save time and increase efficiency but nonetheless human to human engagement still produces quick and meaningful results. Perhaps the San Francisco government needs help with integrating online tools within their governance model but I’m constantly reminded of a deeper issue like the homeless problem. Could job creation in the digital economy be spurred if more profound societal problems were addressed and attempted to be eradicated first?
At the end of the day, I’m not concerned that New York City will “beat” San Francisco in the race to become the digital economy capitol of America. In fact, I’m not losing sleep over it. San Francisco is the hub of the Bay Area digital economy. Silicon Valley is still the global innovation center. The ECOSYSTEM is here. The talent and human capital that matter continue to be attracted to a life out West, in Northern California. The San Francisco Bay Area ~ there is nothing else like it on Planet Earth.