Code for America, founded in 2009, is a non-political organization that connects the government and its citizens in order to build a platform for “civic hacking”. As Lynn Fine, International Programs Manager, put it: “Code for America believes that government can work for the people, by the people, in the 21st century.”
Code for Germany connects engaged citizens to develop tools that improve their city. Government officials join in, share insights and provide information. Together they prove the positive impact of open government policies and civic tech innovation.
Goal of the project is to not only to create best practices and show whats possible with technology in the context of city governments but also to open up more public data, so that startups, companies and citizens can reuse information like transport data to build new tools and services.
At the event, Fine explained the idea more concretely, mentioning how poorly the government uses technology in contrast to the people. This often concerns public services’ websites, their navigation and design which are outdated and not user friendly.
She took a few moments to speak to VentureVillage about her favorite Code For America idea, about who should join the movement and where she sees CodeForAll, the collaboration of all participating countries, in the future.
Julia Kloiber, project leader at Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, later explained that the idea is being welcomed with open arms in Germany. Many cities have reached out to her already. Until the end of the year, however, the focus will be to stabilize and organize the 13 already existing OK Labs (Open Knowledge Labs) that have opened.
Besides the two, Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost (Digital Champion Germany; Design Research Lab UdK), Gabriella Gómez-Mont (Laboratorio para La Ciudad, Mexico City) and Nicolas Zimmer (Technologiestiftung Berlin) shared their experience and view on the current development.
Civic Tech, Open Data and collaboration between citizens and their governments were named as relevant topic in this debate.
To give the audience a better understanding of what has been achieved so far, two projects were presented. One was build by Julius Töger and Moritz Klack. The interactive map of Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld was published before a public vote took place in May 2014 to let the people of Berlin decide whether the old airport area should become a build-up area or stay the way it is.
The map lets user navigate through the construction project to show the consequences the plans would have had.
Another project came from Stefan Kaufmann from Ulm, who build an easy tool for parents to figure out which kindergarten in their neighborhood still has free spots available. An offer like that should clearly be provided by the government. It helps families who are moving to figure out which district is right for them.
With easy examples like the one mentioned above, it became obvious why programs like Code for Germany are not only useful, but actually needed.
To support these kinds of ideas the European Union introduces the #learn2code movement, starting with a “code week” from October 11 – 17, 2014, to build a community that supports each other and works on ideas together.
Besides that the Open Knowledge Foundation and Technology Stiftung Berlin are already planning to start a Berlin-based incubator focussing on open source to open. This incubator should not focus on ideas that can easily exit or be profitable, but on generating the most out of data to improve inner city life. Discussions about that are ongoing.