Jennifer Pahlka spoke yesterday to HackSummit about the role of government in technology. The former deputy CTO of the White House and Code for America founder based her talk on these three key points:
Interfaces to government can be simple, beautiful and easy to use
We must believe that participating in government means offering your hands, not just your voice
Solutions can come from anywhere and can spread easily
Here are some of the highlights from her talk.
Government is behind many of our modern services
Pahlka opened by reminding us that so many of the technological tools we use today come from the government, citing such examples as the NOSA for weather information and Ronald Reagan’s decision to open the GPS platform. Yet despite that fact, most don’t associate government with innovation, instead considering it to be old fashioned and slow:
“I have this line about government innovation and so often pppl think that unofrunately this is an oxymoron. i would challenge that and start by saying that pretty much everything that we’re leveraging today for the apps that are making our world...most of that comes from government innovation.”
Government, like technology, should listen to the people
As we’ve discussedbefore on DZone, developers are increasingly tailoring their wares to the needs of the public rather than dictating taste. Pahlka uses the example of the team that fixed the healthcare site by discussing out they observed people using the site late at night on low-end devices. The trend indicated the digital divide* so many experience, and the team that helped save the Obamacare site have led the way in creating apps that are easy to use and responsive on all devices - not just for those that have the best access.
Government can work if we make it so
Pahlka ended her talk with a call to action, saying that we cannot “buy [a better system] with our taxes...we have to be actively a part of it.” The best way to be a part of the solution is to not only be able to recognize the government’s shortcomings, but to also lend your time and energy to making it a better system.
Pahlka’s Code for America is an excellent example, in which people are volunteering their services to local government, from budget visualizations to implemented data standards.
You can check out the full video here.