Let’s start with context about why this is interesting, the video game industry is $10 billion in size. The US Government software industry is $172 billion. That’s big! Many of those systems are perceived to be slow to market, unappealing, vast, hard to navigate, and does not meet the needs of citizens.
Code For America is an ongoing 1 year fellowship program containing 20 talented people who come together each year to not only come up with good ideas that help city and federal governments but also within that year to fulfill these ideas with technology solutions.
The concept is 'Government as a Platform'. Open platform to enable citizens to do more. (Gethub)
Some of the ideas these teams have uses software not just to support existing processes but also to reinvent services. Here are some examples of things they have done:
- Town hall meetings are under-attended and out of date. Posters throughout the city to text an answer to a question using SMS technology
- Blight in cities, an app that provides building information, what the city is doing about a particular location.
- Bus route transit apps with wait times.
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The group believes that: Government is what we do together, it's not a vending machine where something goes in (taxes) and it spits out services.
People go to their local government site typically to figure out an answer to a question. How to renew a license, business tax information, fishing permits. They made this site question driven, with the predominant object being the search bar. They made it a community effort to identify the types of questions the citizens would seek to answer on the site. Oakland Answers
I found this to be an inspiring story about how software works for us, and wanted to share it! Information is based on a speech given by Abhi Nemani, Co-Executive Director for Code For America at Agile Alliance 2013.