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One success story with revolutionary implications involves Oakland's Crimespotting website. When one Web-savvy citizen took it upon himself to scrape Oakland's crime data from the site CrimeWatch and plot it on an easy-to-understand, online map that launched in 2007, it was groundbreaking. For no money and with few resources, Mike Migurski created a useful tool that kept everyday Oaklanders informed – simply because he cared about his city.

Newsom imagines that, if government had been tasked with such an undertaking, "the cost might reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars” for tech talent, “and the end product may or may not have been as good as what Mike and his colleagues produced." Therefore, just as Apple offers limitless possibilities for development thanks to its open application programming interface (API), the government should open its public data. The public sector should enable the Migurskis of the world to create government apps that can empower citizens. “Government doesn’t have to create everything; it just has to let others create,” the author writes.

Newsom also tells the story of how, in 2008 during his second term as mayor, he saw how technologically hampered city government agencies were: In particular, the call center for 311 (the city's catchall nonemergency number) yielded reports in PDF format – not much more helpful than a huge stack of printouts. So he brought in Brian Purchia as new media director whose team transformed 311's list of disparate queries and complaints into useful, online data sets.

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