Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hacking for a Better Government

Have you ever stood in line at the DMV or any other government office, and just thought, why can we land a man on the moon but we can’t have efficient government services? I’m not talking corruption. Just plain basic efficiency. With all those trillions of dollars/pounds/euros/yen/yuan going into all those coffers worldwide, and with the marvels and wonders of modern tech, why do we still have traffic congestion, urban blight, and potholes?

Well, believe it or not, help may be on the way. And not just here in the U.S., but worldwide.  In fact, grass-roots tech-enabled activism might have started in Kenya, where Ushahidi was born out of the need to map incidents of violence and peace efforts in the 2008 post-election unrest.

There is a catch, though. That catch is You. In order to make our governments work better, the citizens of those governments need to voice their concerns. Fortunately, that is becoming as easy as typing a text message.

Here are a few of the organizations making it happen:

  • Code for America – Where’s My School Bus?, Adopt-A-Hydrant, and Textizen are just a few of the apps created to help people communicate with and better use government services.
  • Random Hacks of Kindness has volunteers all over the world taking on a wide variety of issues. They’ve created Person Finder which was used in the Haiti, Chile and New Zealand earthquakes, and Ad Hawk, which identifies the sponsor of political ads. RHOK has recently teamed up with Transparency International to work on new ways of using technology to fight corruption.
  • Neighborland – This is a fun way to make a difference by sharing ideas about what’s needed in your neck of the woods; gathering support; and then making your project happen. Some of the ideas that have taken off include a Food Truck Festival and Bikeway Signage. Neighborland has also partnered with Code for America fellows in Austin to generate ideas for the Code Across Austin Civic Hackathon.

I can’t wait for the app that solves the Los Angeles traffic problem.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather