Jun 27, 2012 - Podcast    No Comments

Civic Innovation and Government Geeks

Did you know there is a peace corps for geeks who want to help code a better government? The Director of Communications for Code For America, Abhi Nemani, steps off the edge with me to discuss how they are trying to engage citizens to show what is possible with technology and the many ways that government can be considered a platform for people to help themselves and help others.

“I think as citizens we have to start thinking about government  not just as this institution that I give money to but as this institution that’s a part of civic life that I am a part of and I need to have a deeper relationship with. Governments are getting it and they love it. They see that things are changing and they want to change with them. They just need the tools to do it.”

Mindful Media

Show Notes

  • Jennifer Pahlka TEDx talk – Coding A Better Government
  • Code For AmericaBrigade, Fellowship and Accelerator Program
  • Abhi Nemani‘s website
  • “One of the problems with government technology is that they all re-invent the wheel everyday. They don’t work together while challenges in San Francisco aren’t all that different from the challenges in Chicago. But they each are paying millions of dollars to provide pretty much similar services. Why can’t they share their solutions and save tax payers money?”
  • I asked Abhi to expand on a few comments Jennifer Pahlka made during her TEDx video. Either as to how they are significant or some of the things CfA is doing to address the issues:
    • Cultivating a disposition of volunteers and questing
    • Addressing challenges of scalability and re-use
    • Enriching the act of citizenship
    • Government as a platform for people to help themselves and help others
    • We’re not going to fix government until we fix citizenship
  • Q: Blogging has been characterized as the amaterization of journalism. Is this an example of the amateurization of government?
    “I think it is a broadening of the understanding of what it is to be a government [or] to govern. When a citizen adopts a hydrant they are taking action of government that government was already doing. I don’t see a bright line distinction between that and a government doing it themselves. In fact, I think this is a model of government that actually scales. You can have 100 times as many citizens as there are people employed by the government. They are able to do small tasks. If you can build a model of government where citizens are able to do some of these tasks on their own you’re not only going to save money at the government you’re going to be able to do more things. In a time of economic dispair frankly for most governments….how do you fix that model at a core way that starts addressing those problems for the long-term?
  • Q: Can I get my taxes reduced by contributing to the CfA Brigade or a civic hack-a-thon?
    “I think as citizens we have to start thinking about government  not just as this institution that I give money to. But as this institution that’s a part of civic life that I am a part of and I need to have a deeper relationship with”
  • How to address the perception that the institution of government has become ossified
  • Pontifications on CfA Projects:
  • Some ideas on identity and anonymity
  • The startup culture and how significant of a change it is to the approach of technology procurement for government
  • Q: Are we now at a point where engaged citizens are able to provide their solutions to the problems of bureaucracy and improve the collective experience through technology?
    “This is already happening and I think it is going to be really exciting to see how the technology, and more importantly  the culture, advance in the coming years.”
  • Q: Is the development of educational curriculum and/or future generations of developers something CfA has on its’ roadmap?
    “We try our hardest to build a good culture of collaboration and co-learning.”
  • Discussion around Abhi’s essay – The Forum Is No Agora: The Contradiction of a Marketplace of Ideas
    “CfA products are actualized ideas in that they showcase the value of good ideas. Ideas where people have the right principles, the right context, the right motivations and doing something about them to make the world better.”
    “We have to be thoughtful about the way in which we are citizens. The problem with a lot of theories of democracy and free speech is that they don’t’ take citizenship itself and what that means in a democracy seriously. I think you have to and that’s what we’re doing here. “
  • Q: Are there any ideas for projects that CfA wouldn’t attempt to tackle?

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