Ever wonder if government would work better if it was run by Apple or Google? Wouldn’t it be great if government actually listened to people on the forefront of thinking as opposed to employing old bureaucratic ways? Well there is an organization in the United States that believes federal, state and local governments could greatly benefit from the insights of developer and Web 2.0 talent.
At OSCON I was introduced to Code for America, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to bringing the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation together to transform city governments. As their website says “Cities are under greater pressure than ever, struggling with budget cuts and outdated technology. What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory? We believe there is a wealth of talent in the web industry eager to contribute to the rebuilding of America. Code for America gives them the means.”
Based on what I have seen at OSCON, there certainly is a huge talent pool that wants to help. So how is Code for America bringing this talent to governments? Fellowships. Any one interested in bringing their developer or Web 2.0 talents to government can apply for a fellowship from Code for America and then selected fellows are sent to work with a partner government to develop applications that address pressing issues. Whatever is developed as part of the program is then shared openly so it can be used by any other government entity across the country (or around the world). Take a look at the fellows recruitment PSA.
One of the cities participating in this program is Washington, DC. Bryan Sivak, the city’s Chief Technology Officer, said that part of the challenge with trying new things in government is that its leaders often want to emulate other successful programs. In the open source development and Web 2.0 world those models of success don’t often exist yet. He said it’s easy for governments to opt for proprietary solutions because their sales people come in with “flashy presentations, testimonials and case studies.” For Sivak, Code for America is a program that can start to build a culture in government that is conducive to openness and innovation.
Code for America is a very new program and they are just now recruiting their first set of fellows, but some of the early issues they are considering taking on are crime prevention, making it easier to start a business, improved community organizing and maintenance of urban tress. It’s not hard to image ways technology could help address these problems.
What are some of the problems in Qatar that could be helped with innovative ideas from developers and Web 2.0 experts? Why not tap into the growing talent pool right here – all those graduates from Qatar University, Carnegie Mellon- Qatar – and get them involved in solving problems? Maybe its time to Code for Qatar.