Blogging for America

Catherine Bracy: Why I’m Coding for America

To kick off the new year, I wrote a blog post about my frustration with the lack of interest the Silicon Valley/Bay Area tech community shows in government and democracy. I’ve gotten so much feedback, most of it positive. Others reacted by asking what I was doing to help address the problem.

I’m excited to announce that I have an answer for them: I’m joining Code for America. Specifically, I’ll be managing our international efforts (look for more on that soon) but I hope I’ll be participating in some of our domestic programs as well. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to help build networks of like-minded civic technologists and to spread the good word to help change the way technologists think about government–and vice versa.

The post I wrote last week was in many ways an attempt to lay out the problem I want to spend the next decade or two trying to address. There were countless ways I could have decided to get to work; none of them were as exciting as Code for America. Here’s why:

  • Code for America is people-focused. As Tim O’Reilly has said, “the key output of Code for America is not apps, it’s culture change.” CfA is, at its core, a network of people who are passionate about the possibility of technology to improve government. The apps the get built in the process, while awesome, are just proof cases. CfA’s real innovation is its human network of coders, open gov practitioners, entrepreneurs, and government officials. The stronger that network becomes, the more influence it can have on how we think about innovation, democracy, and citizenship.
  • Despite its national mission, CfA has quickly become a hub for civic technology in the Bay Area. CfA’s network here is strong, and I’m looking forward to being a part of extending it to include more founders, engineers, and venture capitalists.
  • The team is awesome. Jen is one of my heroes, not least because she’s pulled together a group of rock stars who are all willing to push in the same direction. I love that.

So that’s why I’m here. CfA is working to close the gap between technology and government. Government–and democracy–is messy. Sometimes politics are gross, and I completely understand why engineers, who can pretty much make computers do what they want them to do, wouldn’t want to waste their time engaging with politicians and bureaucrats. But government is us. We get out of it what we put in and, as citizens, we don’t have the luxury of being able to write government off. The only way for us to make it better is to engage with it. Technologists have so much potential to fix what’s broken about democracy and it’s vitally important that we do. I’m so happy to be making my contribution through CfA.

 

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

Code for America Labs, Inc is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization. Content is licensed through Creative Commons.