OAKLAND, CA—Four years ago, Code For America (CFA) was founded with the mission to “help governments work better for everyone with the people and the power of the Web.” Within two years, the San Francisco-based nonprofit set up a fellowship program, inviting American cities to receive a team of three young motivated developers, activists, and policy planners. The Washington Post‘s description captured what everyone was already thinking: CFA is the “technology world’s equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America.”
It’s an apt comparison. All three organizations choose a specific municipal problem and recruit volunteers with specific skillsets—in this case, people able to conceptualize and build some sort of tech tool—to tackle it. Accordingly, the past two years of the CFA program have produced a few high profile successes: “BlightStatus” in New Orleans lets people check up on blight in their neighborhoods, while “Honolulu Answers” in Hawaii refined search on the municipality’s websites. In Boston, the CFA was responsible for both “Where’s My School Bus?“, which provides real-time school bus information for parents, and “Adopt-A-Hydrant,” which helps the city save money by letting people volunteer to shovel hydrants near their homes out of the snow in the winter.