If SXSW is geek central. Then yesterday’s “In code we trust” session was geek government central. And it was a really interesting session.

Geeks in government is a pretty big thing these days – something proved by yesterday’s “In code we trust” panel session at the SXSW festival – which was completely packed out. Up on stage were 3 pretty clever and insightful people (Alissa Black from San Fransisco, Noel Hildalgo from NYC Dmitry Kachaev from Washington DC), who’ve all gotten their hands pretty dirty doing OpenGov Gov.20 work – and they did some great idea sharing in their 60 min slot.

To share some geek government love, here are some quick take-aways from the session:

How can you make open government sustainable? – lessons from Alissa Black on how San Francisco’s OpenSF initiative.

Alissa said that their OpenSF iniative was structured around 3 core activities:

  • Open Source
  • Participation
  • Transparency

1) The first thing they focused on was transparency – focusing in on collating data sets from all departments. However, what they found was that not all depts were co-operatve, so they created got the Mayor of San Fran to mandate the “Open Data Directive” which made it mandatory for all depts to share their data. A simple top-down solution, to enable bottom-up innovation.

2) The next thing to move on was participation – providing platforms and apps to allow people to share ideas and access the open data. Example of these were RecoverySF, and Improve SF – their first attempt at an idea crowd-sourcing project.
Possibly one of the most interesting participation projects was their “employee budget challenge”, an internal crowd-sourcing process to get ideas from SF employees on how make the most of their budgets – which gathered 300 ideas and 1000 votes from 314 users.

3) The cherry on the cake for SF was a focus on Open Source. To promote Open Source within the wider SF government agency they created a mandatory open source software procurement policy where if you’re commissioning a software project over the value of $100,000, then you have to evaluate an open source option; that’s to say you don’t have to use open source, but you have to evaluate it as an option.

So there you go – 3 top tips from the West Coast on making Open Gov sustainable. More from SXSW soon ; – )