Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America and is currently serving a one-year fellowship as deputy CTO for Government Innovation in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Code for America places fellows in cities around the country, where they spend 12 months hacking, innovating and producing tools that connect citizens to their governments.
Pahlka has been an inspiring voice in government for several reasons. First, she is a proponent of open-source projects. All Code for America projects are open source, meaning that, for example, the Honolulu Answers tool — a “citizen-centric website that is question-driven with clean, easy-to-navigate design” similar to Google — can be repurposed by any city in America. Second, Pahlka believes that although government needs to rethink its approach to delivering services, citizens also need a fresh perspective on their role in society. Citizens, in her mind, are contributors to rather than consumers of government. As she says in her TED talk, below, “We’re not going to fix government until we fix citizenship.”
Her work has gained widespread interest. In fact, 658 coders and 49 governments applied to be part of the 2014 team. The White House also took notice: In May, Pahlka announced that she had been asked to serve a yearlong fellowship with the federal government. Along with federal chief technology officer Todd Park, Pahlka will be working to make the government more “transparent, participatory, and collaborative.”
The videos below are a reminder that government leaders, industry experts and all citizens are responsible for making the government and the country work efficiently.