The increasingly wired world has inevitably met the notoriously slow-moving gears of city government. City websites, apps and online tools are becoming an integral part of local government. Or at least they’re starting to. While some cities like San Francisco and New York have been leaders in developing a software side of the city, others simply don’t have the time or resources to upgrade to Government 2.0. A program entering its second year is on a mission to help those cities get there, and so far it has produced some promising results.
“We don’t want to tell them what to work on,” Deaton says. “We’re going to let them come here, let them see what we have and let them tell us where they think they can make the biggest impact.”
Code for America connects selected fellows with cities that need their services. It’s based on the Teach for America model, where recent graduates are sent to school districts with few resources. Like underperforming schools, there are plenty of cities that can use all the help they can get.
In its first year, the program has built a variety of applications and tools for cities, including awebsite that helps Boston parents find schools for their kids, an app that calculates the solar potential of rooftops, and tools that help residents interact with city 311 systems for non-emergency services.
Code for America just announced the next group of focus cities that will receive teams of fellows. For 2012, the organization has upped its load to eight cities. From a pool of more than 20 applicants, the selected cities are Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, New Orleans, Santa Cruz, and Macon, Georgia. Philadelphia will also spend a second year in the program.
Unlike the rest of the cities in the program, Macon represents a new approach for the program, mainly because the city of 91,000 has different needs than a Philadelphia or Boston.
“Comparatively, we’re teeny tiny,” says Amanda Deaton, the project lead for the city of Macon.
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