Government // Open Government
01:15 PM

Code For America To Help Cities Modernize IT

Nonprofit is working with five U.S. cities to develop technology innovations aimed at transparency and better citizen engagement.

A new nonprofit project backed by several high-profile technology foundations aims to help city governments better leverage Web 2.0 technology in their transparency plans.

The idea behind Code For America is to bring together top talent in Web design and development to enable city governments to modernize their services through IT.

"Cities are under greater pressure than ever, struggling with budget cuts and outdated technology," according to the project's website. "What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory?"

Code for America will work with five U.S. cities -- Boston, Philadelphia, the District of Columbia, Seattle, and Boulder, Colo. -- next year on IT projects specific to the city. The project chose the cities from applications that asked them to identify a problem that could be solved through technology innovation.

A team of five Code for America fellows with technology expertise will work with each city on the project. According to the Code for America website, the development process is meant to be interactive and not merely to find or build a piece of software to solve the problem.

"The cities engage in a deep multi-directional exchange between the city government, the fellows, and the other host cities," according to the site.

After the projects are completed, cities can share them with other cities, as "reuse and sharing of technology among cities is a core principle" of Code for America, it said.

Founded by several seasoned technology-industry veterans, the project has support from foundations that are actively promoting more use of technology in government, including the Sunlight Foundation and the Case Foundation. Other financial support for the project comes from Omiydar Network and the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation.

Founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka has spent 15 years in the technology industry overseeing trade shows and publications, including the Game Developers Conference and Game Developer magazine. Co-founder and technical advisor Leonard Lin, among other things, worked on web technology and social software for President Obama's campaign and founded a company called that was sold to Yahoo. Both also co-chair Code for America's board.

Open government advocate, tech book publisher, and Web 2.0 evangelist Tim O'Reilly also serves on Code for America's board.

The organization also is looking for technical fellows that want to contribute their expertise to its mission and work with the cities that have won the 2011 awards. More information about applying is available on Code for America's website.

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