Workforce

Code for America seeks new recruits

Code for America Founder Jen Pahlka speaking at TED in February 2012.

The Code for America project was founded by former OSTP Deputy CTO Jennifer Pahlka.

Code for America is looking for a few good geeks.

The project, now in its fifth year, inserts developers in state and local government agencies for one year to build technical solutions to knotty government problems. Code for America is looking for applicants with well-developed coding chops and project management experience, but also for a more hard-to-find set of soft skills.

The project was founded by Jennifer Pahlka, who recently ended a year-long stint as deputy CTO in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Alex Tran, the program manager for the year-long fellowship, is looking for individuals with the maturity and poise to interface with government officials, and bear up under special and perhaps sometimes baffling demands of bureaucratic procedure.

"I think that one of the most powerful things that CfA does is bring geeks to the decision-making table on how we support and deliver services to citizens," Tran told FCW. Fellows in the program are on the front lines of moving government services into the digital arena. "In this day and age, a technologist can really inspire folks with what's possible – with things you can make that are lightweight and fast."

Some projects that have come out of CfA include an app that reduces a telephone directory-sized book about Boston schools into an interactive tool for parents to zero in on schools for their children, and an application programming interface platform in San Mateo County, Calif.,  that aggregates information on social programs in the area so developers can build applications around specific offerings. Current fellow Sam Hashemi is working in Atlanta on project to notify motorists with traffic court cases about their hearing schedules, to cut down on individuals being fined and arrested for missing their court dates.

A unifying theme of CfA projects is that they provide a way for technological solutions to infiltrate old, off-line ways of doing things, and bring Internet speed and agility to the platform of government. Hashemi, who worked in federal IT as a contractor at NASA and an employee of the Pacific Northwest National Lab said that a transition to digital services "can be an excuse to make general improvements," in old ways of conduting business. "That digital process becomes the new process," he said. By developing applications for government business, "you've improved both the technology and the underlying workflow," he said.

Candidates have until July 15 to apply for a CfA fellowship. Governments interested in participating in the project can find more information here.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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