Hack the government

Code for America thinks that the U.S. would be a lot better place if hackers turned their technical skills towards improving the government.

Code for America has a rather novel notion. It is that the U.S. would be a far, far better place if we stopped complaining about local government and started hacking it

No, no, they don't mean hacking it open. Well, actually, they do in a way. What Code for America would like to do is to open up city governments to citizens and move into the 21st century. That's because, as Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media stated at the The O'Reilly Open Source Convention, we need to stop thinking of the government as a semi-broken candy machine and get to work on fixing it.

The "fixing it" part is where non-profit Code for America Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka wants to see developers start devoting their efforts. Why? Because she's found that much of the government isn't just using out-dated IT, it's using idiotic IT practices.

Pahlka cited the example of her own home town, Oakland, CA. In Oakland, the city government can't easily look up who said what in city council meetings. Why not? Because, after the minutes are carefully typed up in Microsoft Word they're made ready for permanent storage by printing them out and storing the prints out as images.


So it is that Code for America is looking for a few good developers, designers, or product managers to become Code for America Fellows? In these 11-month positions, you'll be asked to help city governments leverage the Web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory.

And, one hopes, to help Oakland put together a more usable way of archiving city records. Interested? You have until August 15th to file an application. Don't think that public service work sounds that's inspiring? Watch this video by Code for America. You might just change your mind.

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