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Why San Francisco Could Be the Ideal City To Innovate in Public Procurement?

Why San Francisco Could Be the Ideal City To Innovate in Public Procurement?

The City of San Francisco is renowned for its vibrant culture, diverse population, and a thriving tech industry that is constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation, making it the perfect location to explore new and creative ideas in government innovation, especially in public procurement.

San Francisco is part of the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem. As such, it is home to big tech companies like Salesforce, a cloud-based software company that provides customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to businesses of all sizes; Airbnb, an online marketplace that facilitates the renting out of one’s home or apartment to travelers; Uber, a ride-sharing company that allows users to hail rides from drivers using a mobile app; Dropbox, a cloud storage company that enables users to store and share files online; and Twitter, the famous social media platform that allows users to share short messages, or “tweets,” with their followers; among many others.

It is important to keep in mind that the tech industry in San Francisco is not solely composed of private-sector companies. The city has also been at the forefront of government innovation, developing innovative projects, programs, and initiatives in the public sector. 

In 2009, it launched DataSF, an open data program that provides public access to datasets on a variety of topics, including public safety, transportation, and housing; in 2010, Former Mayor Gavin Newsom launched Open311, an open-source platform for citizen reporting of non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti, and broken streetlights; in 2011, Former Mayor Ed Lee presented SFPark, a parking management system that uses sensors to collect real-time data on parking availability so that prices are adjusted accordingly; in 2017, San Francisco announced its program “City Fiber Network,” which aims to build a city-owned fiber optic network to provide high-speed broadband access to businesses and residents throughout the city; and the list goes on.

San Francisco has a unique blend of technological advancement and sustainability-oriented initiatives that make it an ideal location to implement innovative and sustainable public procurement practices:

📌  Proximity to leading technology companies: As it is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, home to some of the world’s most innovative and successful technology companies, San Francisco could easily attract and partner with leading technology companies to help modernize its procurement processes.

📌  Progressive policies: San Francisco has a reputation for being a progressive city willing to experiment with new policies and ideas. This mindset can extend to public procurement, where the city can experiment with innovative approaches to increase efficiency and transparency.

📌  Established innovation ecosystem: It has a thriving innovation ecosystem that includes startups, venture capitalists, accelerators, and incubators, all of which can help support and accelerate the adoption of new procurement technologies and approaches.

📌  Leadership in sustainability: San Francisco has long been a leader in sustainability, with ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing renewable energy usage. This commitment to sustainability can extend to public procurement, where the city can prioritize environmentally sustainable products and services.

📌  Existing innovation initiatives: The city has already established several initiatives that are ripe for innovation in public procurement, such as the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and the Startup in Residence program. San Francisco can develop public procurement initiatives within these programs to modernize procurement and create opportunities for innovation.

Although there is much to be done, the city has already innovated in public procurement. San Francisco’s Office of Contract Administration has created a new contracting process for digital services that is more agile and flexible than traditional procurement processes, allowing the city to work more closely with vendors to co-create solutions that meet the city’s needs. 

It has also implemented a reverse vendor trade fair, where city departments set up booths and vendors come to pitch their products and services. This approach allows vendors to learn about the city’s needs and priorities and allows the city to learn about the innovative solutions available on the market. 

San Francisco has also implemented outcome-based contracting, where contracts are structured around achieving specific outcomes rather than just delivering specific products or services. 

We at GLASS have developed a cutting-edge digital tool that can play a crucial role in the modernization of San Francisco’s public procurement process. Our platform, Glass Commerce, is an e-commerce marketplace that enables compliant transactions between verified small vendors and government buyers. With this solution, the city could efficiently handle its micro and small purchases.

Glass Commerce has helped government agencies procure over 5.8 million items from diverse local and small businesses, leveraging procurement data and streamlining operations across more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies, including the State of Illinois, the City of Seattle, and the City of Miami.

It is time for San Francisco to take action and make a meaningful impact in public procurement by embracing the next generation of procurement practices.


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