Hacker-Driven “Code for America” Kicks Off Today

Inspired by the impact of Teach for America, programmers will spend the year creating applications for cash-strapped (and technology befuddled) city governments.

MIT building


Teach for America launched 20 years ago and has a profound impact on the nation’s educational system. Code for America, which also compares itself to Doctors Without Borders and Architecture for Humanity, hopes to have a similar impact by putting hackers to work developing technology for the country’s strapped municipalities.

The program kicks off today with 20 fellows slated to spend 2011 tackling challenges in four cities. The general problem area for each city has been identified, but the fellows themselves will sketch out actual implementations over the coming months. The goal for all projects is to leverage emerging Internet technologies to help city governments become more transparent, efficient, and participatory.

In Boston, they’ll build a platform for education services. In Philadelphia, they’ll create mechanisms so that citizens can connect with each other and communicate effectively with local government. In Seattle, they’ll work on ways to use technology to keep residents safe. And in Washington, D.C., they’ll create an open-source repository for the city’s Gov 2.0 efforts, so they can be replicated elsewhere.

This year’s session will run for eleven months, during which time the fellows are expected to build working, replicable, and open-source systems for their respective city governments. The group will start out in San Francisco, where CFA is based, and have access to mentors and instruction from Silicon Valley’s finest, which is not surprising considering the heavy hitters on its board: O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly, Blue State Digital co-founders Clay Johnson and Jascha Franklin-Hodge, author Clay Shirky, and Personal Democracy Forum’s Andrew Rasiej. Funding, which includes a $35,000 stipend for each fellow, comes from the Knight Foundation, Omiydar Network, Rockefeller Foundation, Sunlight Foundation, the Case Foundation, and the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation.

For more on Code for America and Gov 2.0 efforts across the country, see “How an Army of Techies is Taking on City Hall” from the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Fast Company.

[Image: Flickr user ReneS]


E.B. Boyd’s coordinates: Twitter, email.

About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.