This is a Guest Post post by Jennifer Pahlka (@pahlkadot)
Executive Director and Founder, Code for America.
Most people want to do good in the world. Volunteer organizations everywhere count on that instinct to help make the world a better place, and they channel our energies in places where we can help. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, serve the homeless in our local soup kitchen, or help out at the animal shelter. It gives us a sense of purpose.
If youre a developer, though, you have skills most other volunteers dont have. And the 21st-century equivalent of barn raising is creating online and mobile platforms that benefit everyone.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine sold his company and decided he wanted to help government with its technology challenges. He could see that the way government obtained software was very different from how the private sector does it now. This was leaving government behind, saddled with clumsy, expensive systems that are outdated by the time they are procured.
After months of trying to find out how to help, he was told that the only way he could serve his country was to join the National Guard, go through a year or more of training, and hope to get assigned to working on their IT systems. Not exactly the best way to leverage a top-notch engineer, manager, and entrepreneur.
Code for America changes all that. I founded this new non-profit organization to give some of the bright, talented people who make amazing things happen with mobile and web technology the chance to make a difference.
We focus on cities, because they are the key to surviving the 21st century, because you can see your impact quickly in an urban setting, and because cities across America are in crisis. They are dealing with painful budget cuts at a time when citizens need more, and the only way through this mess is to start innovating, adopting some of the same thinking and practices that have so revolutionized the private sector in the past decade.
Who is going to help them do that? You are.
Code for America is now accepting applications for its 2011 fellows program. CfA fellows get a crash course in how cities work, mentorship and networking with the top names in tech and government, and a platform to launch companies and careers that will bring long-term innovation to the public sector. They also get a living-wage stipend, travel expenses, and healthcare for the year. Most of all, they get the chance to be heroes.
If youre a developer, designer, product manager, data wrangler, or researcher who wants to make a difference, this is your opportunity to build a new generation of Gov 2.0 apps to make city governments work better.
Applications are due August 15, 2010. Please see our website for details.