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Why I’m Coding for America

“So, do you have a website?” I asked.

“No.” he replied, “There is where we need some help.”

The rain was beating down on our car driving through Northeast Brazil. Eduardo and I had met that morning in the car en route to a yoga retreat.

Through hours of rough, wet roads, I discovered that Eduardo was the founder of CAIB, the World Affairs Council of Brazil. From that initial conversation, a partnership blossomed. Across continents, from Los Angeles to Salvador da Bahia, we worked together, collaborated, designed, and created a sustainable website for the organization. Their new site engaged a global community connected to Brazil and Brazilian issues. To me this was the beauty of the web. Not just virtual, but rooted in real life experience — connecting citizens to important issues.

I traveled 6,143 miles to Brazil and helped an organization focused on civic engagement, only to realize we have those same challenges here in the US.

We interact with our cities in countless ways. With websites, parks, flags, notifications, street signs, city maps, and the DMV. And yet, today there is a disconnect from how people communicate with each other and how they communicate with their governments. From a super invasive NSA, to difficulty navigating basic city services, it’s easy to ignore, become apathetic, or complain. It’s easy to forget that we are an integral part of democracy – it’s not a spectator sport. We have to participate.

I’m Coding for America because I believe in the web. It’s always been a place for openness, learning, and sharing for me. People exposing difficult challenges so others can learn from them, so that problems become lessons. I believe in design, that making things with care and craft and empathy for the person using it is important. The web has always been a place to explore and experiment. Technology can start a conversation. It’s a tool to work with people not for them.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly virtual and material, it’s our chance to shape our experience of the web. To ask what matters. What do we want to make visible? It’s easy to go into a hip, new startup and create a cool app. It’s hard to go into government bound by centuries of history, and make something simple, intuitive, and meaningful. But that to me is much, cooler, sexier, more challenging. That to me, is the best part.