RECAP FROM SXSW 2012 — KEYNOTE ADDRESS, DAY 5:
What I love about Jennifer Pahlka’s final keynote at SXSW Interactive today was her focus on changing government from the inner-workings. She highlighted a series of outdated digital systems that often causes us frustrations. But who wants to work with local governments? Who wants to help with civic software or back-end systems for cities. At the heart of it, local government is what we as Americans connect with the most. By fixing the systems on local level, you can help fix government.
The key question, can you get talented developers from Silicon Valley and bring them down to key local cities to help code and develop apps to solve real issues. Not big federal programs, but local governments that struggle to get their systems up to date.
Pahlka realized that there’s an opportunity to change the system. Just like “Teach for America” program to recruit teachers, why couldn’t we recruit coders to help different cities in need. Things are changing today, and our preconceptions of government not wanting to change and evolve is dissolving.
A great case study was focused on the Boston Public School system. The tool allows parents and students to find eligible schools and create a customized list of favorites. Before, it was a crazy set of documents that parents had to sift through to determine what schools they could send their kids too. It wasn’t this huge $2 million project, but simple, efficient and created with the bureaucracy.
If you’re a developer and interested in Code for America, check out the site. The CfA Fellows work hand in hand with forward thinking cities across the country to help them do more with less. I love it because it’s really about connecting people in need with the talent that has typically reserved for well-funded start-ups and big digital agencies.
As a developer, you can also join the Code for America Brigade. Start a brigade locally with other developers and maybe you can help on other projects in the works!
“Coding isn’t about making software, it’s about rewiring society.”
— Clay Johnson
“We’re not just consumers of government and services. We’re citizens and as neighbors and fellow citizens, we can help each other.” Pahlka said. “I’m calling on everyone to act like a citizen.”
“We’ve built an amazing consumer internet. We can do so much now. But now it’s about building a citizen’s internet,” Pahlka said. “When you think about serving your country. We think about the military. But we also are fighting another battle. And we need an army of geeks.”
At it’s core, government is what we do together as a society. It’s not a problem as an institution, but a problem in collective participation. And through digital tools, that participation and connectivity grows within our communities. It’s about breaking down silos and figuring out how digital solutions can help us all.
Check out other projects from CfA: