San Francisco should be ‘digital by default’ says mayoral candidate Farrell

Mark Farrell, a former member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, is running for mayor. He says he wants to make the city "digital by default."
Mark Farrell
San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell speaks during a news conference outside of the Civic Center Navigation Center on May 17, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A current mayoral candidate in San Francisco on Thursday shared a proposed set of policies to make all of the city government “digital by default” if he is elected. And he promised to digitize every constituent-facing service within two years, ensuring all city services are accessible online 24/7.

The campaign of Mark Farrell — who briefly served as mayor in 2018 and for eight years sat on the city’s Board of Supervisors — points out that San Franciscans’ ratings of city services over the last four years has declined under current Mayor London Breed, according to a 2023 city survey. Along with expanding the city’s digital options within the next two years, Farrell’s “digital by default” platform would also expand the city’s Civic Bridge program, which connects volunteers with government to bring outside expertise into city projects.

In a statement, Farrell said these measures would rectify the decline in ratings and help the city leverage its local technology talent to improve the accessibility and delivery of critical government services.

“I am running to upend the status quo at every level of City government,” Farrell’s statement reads. “Mayor Breed has failed to leverage the technology and talent in our backyard to make City government and services more accessible and convenient for residents and businesses. We need a leader with significant and successful private sector experience to help bring our City government into the 21st century. On Day One, I will advance policies that leverage technology and talent to make our city government digital by default.”


Some of the services Farrell proposed be digitized include permit applications, bill payments and service requests. Farrell said the new digital services would emphasize user-friendly mobile interfaces, accessibility and the security of personal information.

Farrell’s proposal also includes hiring a new director for the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation who has demonstrated technology experience and can drive innovation for city departments and staff.

The proposal follows Farrell’s work while on the city’s Board of Supervisors from 2010 to 2018. As a board member, he helped to strengthen San Francisco’s open data policy and created a plan to publish city data in machine-readable formats.

Under former Mayor Ed Lee, Farrell helped deliver free Wi-Fi access in public parks through a deal with Google. Farrell also led a plan to create a citywide broadband service, but the effort stalled after Farrell didn’t seek funding for the project before leaving the mayor’s office.

“San Francisco has always been at the heart of innovation, but over the past six years, I’ve seen how a bloated bureaucracy and poor leadership can stifle our potential,” Jay Nath, who served as chief innovation officer under Lee, said in the news release. “We must forge stronger partnerships between City Hall and our local technology leaders to cut through red tape. This requires a Mayor who understands how business, academia, and civil society can work together to tackle our biggest challenges. I have no doubt we can reclaim our title as the Innovation Capital of the World and ensure efficient, effective, and equitable delivery of City services to all our constituents.”

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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