Connecting Coders and Cities

Urban Omnibus talks with Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America, a group looking to get the youth involved in developing computer programs and applications that help improve urban areas.

The non-profit group seeks to bring "web 2.0" developers and city officials together to better utilize technology to address urban problems and organizational challenges.

"Urban Omnibus: How can 'the next generation of Gov 2.0 apps for city governments' help address some of these issues?

Jennifer Pahlka: Cities perform most functions in a very industrial age model. The next generation of Gov 2.0 apps can help them work in a network model, and find efficiencies and build trust with citizens by doing so. To take a few very small examples, cities currently answer questions from citizens in person and by phone and email. So they answer the same questions over and over again. In a network model, those questions are exposed to each other, not just in a knowledge database, but in a social context, so that citizens can not only learn from each other's experiences, but also build on them, and get the answers they need instead of a canned, bureaucratic answer that doesn't help them. Some of the staff answering those questions can be redeployed fixing other problems. Another small example is service requests. In most cities, if you call in to report a broken streetlight, your request goes into a (very long) queue of other requests, and eventually a city employee will be sent out to the location to inspect the streetlight, verify the location and note more information about the damage. If another call comes in about the same streetlight, it simply goes into the queue as well; we don't know that it's the same issue, reported twice. Eventually, a crew will be sent out to fix it. But there are network elements missing in that process."

Full Story: Code for America

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