Jennifer Pahlka founded Code for America for the sole purpose of transforming government with technology. An experienced coder and manager, she recognized that tools such as mobile apps could not only save taxpayers huge amounts of money but also change the way citizens view and interact about government. The nonprofit has grown rapidly and has received a $1.5 million donation from Google, as well as contributions from Microsoft, Nike and Yahoo. As citizens of our counties, states and country, Pahlka believes that we can use our collective knowledge and skills to create more efficient and safer places to live:
Though its name suggests complex tasks performed by super-smart programmers and engineers, Pahlka said in a phone interview that the main goal of Code for America is much simpler: "It can mean a lot of different things to different people. But it's the idea that they have the power themselves to create the technology to make their communities better."
That could mean using publicly available city databases to make apps to better map, say, crime rates or emergency response times in certain areas or to build a tool for public walking tours of outdoor art.
This year, that program has 26 fellows chosen from 550 applicants who've left their jobs and in some cases moved across the country to help organize communities.
You can see some of Code for America’s projects on their website, but to gain a better sense of their approach, check out Pahlka’s 2012 TED talk.