In January 2013 the City of Oakland launched its open data portal along with the Public Ethics Commission’s Transparency Project. Both launches aim to facilitate openness and transparency in order to ensure fairness, openness, honesty, and integrity in Oakland’s City government. Since then, City Council also voted to require that both candidate and committee finances be published online and accessible to taxpayers. The Open Oakland Code for America Brigade is extremely active and the group meets regularly within city hall. To connect with co-captains Eddie Tejeda and Steve Spiker email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In building this app, the fellows have applied methods gleaned from the technology sector. Working with lean processes, delivering the minimum viable product and iterating based on user experience and community feedback are all valuable ideas that are now being incorporated into the City’s other business processes, effectively changing the culture within City Hall.
City Administrator Deanna J. Santana
In 2013, the City of Oakland recognized the need to digitize and improve its public records program. At the time, requests were not well tracked, city staff were often unable to navigate the system and the information that was already available was buried in a difficult-to-use website. In essence, the system itself was a bit of a black hole and the public was left wondering where their requests were going and whether they’d be fulfilled. It’s for this reason that 2013 fellowship team Richa Agarwal, Cris Cristina and Sheila Dugan met with stakeholders from various Oakland departments to improve citywide public records requests.
Working alongside city contacts Nicole Neditch (Online Communications Officer) and Karen Boyd (Director of Communications) — the group began work with the Office of the City Administrator. After holding weekly office hours and interviewing members and city staff members, the team decided to build a new RecordTrac.
The app allows city employees to upload links or documents, triage requests to other departments, ask questions of a requester, explain whether or not the request’s fulfillment is in paper format or online and track the request timing / fulfillment. The app’s purpose is to make it easier for citizens to submit requests and easier for city staff to manage the fulfillment of those. Additionally, it will provide a shared view of current and past requests and expose data that can potentially be used to further improve processes.
To date RecordTrac is widely used across departments with the Oakland Police Department as the final department to come onboard later in the year. This group in particular hosted a number of events to facilitate better relationships between the community and city. They co-hosted the Open Data Day hackathon that produced this early childhood service app and helped anchor the Rewrite Oakland content writing event that eventually powered the launch of Oakland Answers.
Kapor Center for Social Impact
William H. Donner Foundation