Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkereres

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Many local governments are figuring out how to use the Internet to make government data more accessible. The goal is to spawn useful Web sites and mobile applications — and perhaps even have people think differently about their city and its government.

“It will change the way citizens and government interact, but perhaps most important, it’s going to change the way elected officials and civil servants deliver programs, services and promises,” said Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, which is one of the cities leading the way in releasing government data to Web developers. “I can’t wait until it challenges and infuriates the bureaucracy.”

Advocates of these open-data efforts say they can help citizens figure out what is going on in their backyards and judge how their government is performing.

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