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Mark Headd: Why I’m Coding for America

When I finished my undergraduate studies at a small state university in upstate New York almost 20 years ago, I wanted to make a difference.

This desire led me to volunteer for my first (but not my last) political campaign, it led me to pursue a graduate degree in Public Administration at Syracuse University, and it eventually led me into government service.

This same desire to make a difference that has driven almost every major decision of my professional career and has now led me to Code for America.

I’m joining Code for America to become the Director of Government Relations, to work with cities across the country to bring talented designers and coders to bear on urban issues.

For me, entering public service at the dawn of the internet age provided a unique perspective on how governments use technology, particularly web-based technologies. As a result, I’ve always been fascinated with how governments use technology to provide services and engage citizens.

I spent enough time in the world of government, and – since leaving several years ago – in the private sector, to see technology misapplied and used as an excuse when things went wrong.

Technology is stimultaneously both the greatest challenge facing governments struggling to do more with fewer resources, and also one of the greatest opportunities to do so. There should be no illusions that technology is a panacea to the problems facing governments, but it is a uniquely powerful tool that has enormous potential for helping governments do their jobs more efficiently.

We are now at a critical juncture in the development of how we govern ourselves; at an important crossroad for how governments engage with citizens and develop technology-based solutions to make our communities better. Cities are at the heart of this important change, and we have a unique opportunity to shape the future of how cities work by applying new thinking and new technologies to old problems.

In the words of Tim O’Reilly, governments are becoming computing platforms – foundations on which software ecosystems can be built to make our neighborhoods better. The way we build software and utilize government data has gone through a radical change in the last few years, and Code for America is harnessing the dynamic behind this change and bringing it to cites.

Code for America helps city governments leverage the internet generation to develop innovative approaches to the challenges cities continue to face. It’s an important mission, and I am extremely proud to be a part of it.

I Code for America to build on the computing platforms our cities are becoming. I Code for America because it matters.

I Code for America because I want to make a difference.