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Google Awards $1.5 Million To Code For America

Startup will use the money to bolster a fellowship program and launch two others to create new Web-based apps for cities.

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Tech giant Google has awarded a $1.5 million grant to a startup nonprofit aimed at building a community of Web developers and designers around the country to bolster civic e-government initiatives.

Code for America will use the grant money to expand its Fellowship program, according to a blog post by founder Jennifer Pahlka. The money from Google also will help Code for America develop two new pilot programs: the Civic Startup Seed Accelerator, and the CIA Brigade.

Google's backing gives weight to the organization's vision for creating a new technology paradigm for city government, Pahlka said in an e-mail interview Wednesday.

"Companies like Google have changed the world by leveraging the Web as a platform, she said. "We think we can remake our relationship with government by helping government function as a platform, and having Google validate that vision is huge for Code for America."

Code for America's Fellowship program is a 12-month internship of sorts for Web developers, designers and entrepreneurs to team up with city leaders to create new civic technology.

The organization will put fellows in eight cities this year with the new funding as opposed to three last year. The cities with Code for America fellows in 2012 will be: Austin, Texas; Detroit; Chicago; Santa Cruz, Calif.; New Orleans; Honolulu; Macon, Ga.; and Philadelphia. Philadelphia also was a Fellowship city in 2011, along with Seattle and Boston.

Code for America also is using the early days of the program to learn what works and what doesn't and "applying the lessons learned to make a better fellowship," Pahlka said in her blog post.

"We're looking forward not only to great new apps and stories of innovation, but to reuse of the 2011 apps by our new city partners and others," she said.

In addition to Google, the John S and James L Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations also funded the Fellowship program, which is taking applications online.

The Seed Accelerator program aims to "put disruptive technology in the hands of entrepreneurs that can change the world," Pahlka said in her post. The program will aim to foster sustainable businesses so they can potentially develop into vendors that serve the government market.

The Kauffman Foundation also provided financial support for the program, she added.

The CIA Brigade program will develop an online platform that can help civic-minded hackers join forces online. The goal is to allow developers who have created applications for cities to reuse them across the country, as well as share and remix code.

Code for America will go live with a beta site for the program in March.

Launched just this year, Code for America appears to be taking the idea of crowdsourcing--which the federal government also is embracing--to a new level. The organization is using the Web to connect technologists with ideas for transforming government through Web-based applications and services.

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