February 24, 2010 By Steve Towns, Editor
Like most big cities, San Francisco runs a Web site packed with hundreds of pages of city services, department listings, community information and other resources. But SFgov.org's days as the primary electronic gateway into San Francisco government may be numbered.
Chris Vein, CIO for the city and county of San Francisco, said popular Web 2.0 platforms like Facebook or Google's search-driven suite of services may be displacing public-sector Web sites for many citizen-government interactions.
"We're seeing a fundamental shift in the way services are being delivered," said Vein, speaking Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the California CIO Academy, a two-day forum for government IT leaders in Sacramento. "We're looking at perhaps the end of a Web site for the city and county of San Francisco. I'm being overly dramatic, but Web sites may no longer be the primary way you get your information."
For instance, Vein pointed to the growing number of Facebook members who use the social media site as their home base on the Web. "For a certain demographic, Facebook is the only way for entering into a conversation with the rest of the world. They rely on it for their e-mail and other services," he said.
San Francisco's Facebook page already has more than 260,000 fans. The page announces city activities and gives users a place to comment on community issues. It also offers links to city services and video from city government-related events.
"On the city Facebook page, we have enabled all of the services that are available on our Web site," Vein said. "For instance, you can pay your parking ticket on the city Facebook site. We're looking at this as just another portal into the city. It's an experiment."
Facebook -- which has more than 200 million active users -- and other social network sites could become primary conduits for government services and information, Vein said.
"I think that's where we're going with this, and it's going to change the fundamental nature of government along the way," he said. "I'm thinking I need to reorganize how I'm presenting information."
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.