Code for America: Prepped for National Day of Civic Hacking

May 31, 2013 1:59 pm PST | Data as a Service

The National Day of Civic Hacking begins in less that 24-hours. What better place to get a feel for what’s happening and what’s possible than the Code for America (CfA) offices in San Francisco?

Today, we spoke with Hannah Young, Program Coordinator of the National CfA Brigade, about what’s going on in the Bay Area and her hopes for the events all over the country.

How is the weekend shaping up in terms of events?

The brigade, our network, is organizing 34 of the 96 events — which means that a third of the events have really strong CfA connections; either brigade members, fellows, or organizers who have reached out to us to put on a CfA event. And all of the Brigade events will have representatives from the local governments in attendance.

You can view a list of the Brigade events here – and all of the NDoCH events here.

Can you tell us about the event you are attending this weekend?

I will be at the event in Oakland. It’s run by one of our former fellows, Eddie Teja, Steve Spiker, who’s a really good friend of CfA, as well the Nicole Neditch from the City and other city staff. And, our fellows are also helping us organize it because we have fellows in Oakland this year.

OpenGovSign_CfATell us about fellows?

A fellowship is an eleven-month program where technologists take a year off to code for America. It was the program that started CfA.

What’s happening in Oakland?

They are re-depolying Honolulu Answers (answers.honlulu.gov). This was the app that one of our 2012 fellowships teams created for Honolulu. It’s an intuitive search for government websites. For example, if you need to renew your driver’s license, instead of going on the government site and searching for “driver’s license,” it’s a question-based search. So you would type, “How do I renew my driver’s license?”

It’s a neat story, too, because it was built during a fellowship in Honolulu and now we’re deploying it through the brigade to a different city. That’s what we’re hoping to see with all technology – not re-creating something when it already exists. That’s the beauty of open source – and why everything created at Code for America is open source.

How will people participate in Oakland?

It will be an un-conference up front, with lots of ideation and talking. We’ll be coming up with the answers that aren’t even online, yet. There is a lot of domain expertise with city folks that isn’t on the website, yet. This is just the kickoff for an ongoing push. It’s a significant app.

What are your thoughts on the events across the country this weekend?

I like to describe this weekend as a galvanizing moment in this ongoing movement around civic technology. This is an amazing display of the power of civic hacking and what we can all do together. What is also great to watch is how this momentum is going to continue and build.

Ongoing movement is the way to describe it because there has been a ton of work that people have been doing before this that we want to credit. There will also be a tremendous amount of work coming out of it.

Why is civic hacking important?

There’s all of this creativity and we’ve had this boom of ability to influence and share our opinions and engage with each other in the private sector. When you think about what that could mean if that happened in the public sector it’s really exciting. We like the idea of bringing technology to our cities and helping facilitate using it well.

You can view the history of civic hacking here – we encourage everyone to add to it.

What can you tell us about the event tonight?

We wanted to have a kick off for our Bay Area events because there are so many. We’re hoping to get that positive energy going heading into the weekend. I think that everyone is really geared up but when you showcase how connected people are it’s really exciting.

Any last thoughts on the weekend?

I’m super jazzed to see what comes out of this weekend. I hope that this energizes people about civic hacking in the same way that we feel energized here at CfA.

If you want to see what’s happening at NDoCH Brigade events throughout the country this weekend take a look at our Tumblr.


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