I was surprised when I realized I hadn’t yet blogged about Code for America. I mentioned it in a post last week about the future of technology and planning, and then came across it again reading Arc User: The Magazine for ESRI Software Users. For those unfamiliar, ESRI is the company that produces the most widely-used GIS software – ArcMAP. Turns out they’re also advising the Code for America program.
So, what is Code for America (CfA)? They’re a new non-profit that teams with cities, figures out a challenge the city is facing that could be solved most cost-effectively with a tech/web 2.0 solution, and recruits technologist fellows to spend about 10 months working out the solutions. The result is that cities get their problems solved cheaper (and faster) than doing it on their own and the technologists get to do good while doing what they love.
This round, CfA has partnered with Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. The intent is that they’ll solve each city’s challenge in an open and transferable way, creating solutions that apply to any municipality in the US. Boston has challenged the fellows to improve high school education through an engaging web platform; Seattle is looking for a mechanism to enable more fluid collaboration between and among communities and public safety officials; Washington DC is expanding upon its own Apps for Democracy project, creating a manual to assist other governments in their open data programs; and, Philadelphia has asked for a solution to allow citizen collaboration on neighborhood services.
CfA is currently in full swing, with all fellows working together out of San Francisco. We should expect the first round of solutions in September with a hand-off to cities in October and November. In the meantime, they’re already recruiting for the next team of technologist. Act fast because the early deadline has already passed!