Lynn Fine: Why I’m Coding for America

I grew up in an activist family. My parents moved to San Francisco in the 1960′s and were deeply involved in advancing issues of civil rights and social justice. With no Facebook posts or Twitter hashtags available to them they had to organize the old-fashioned way. While my mother is surprisingly tech-savvy (her skills put mine to shame), my father has been more resistant in adapting to modern technology. He still hunts and pecks, records with VHS and calls the San Francisco Chronicle when he has trouble loading an online article.

As a teenager, I would come home from school to a dinner table covered in newspaper clippings that my dad had left me about healthcare in Kenya or malnutrition rates in Nicaragua, sparking my interest in social justice issues all over the world. But as a San Francisco child of the internet age, I have acclimated to the rising role of technology in everyday life. This background has shaped personal ideals that align seamlessly with Code for America’s public service mission.

My upbringing coupled with language training at bilingual public school steered me towards international development work. I’ve since had the privilege of living and working in many countries, from a public policy think tank in Argentina, to fieldwork on governance in India to an open data program in Brazil. These experiences have taught me about the shared challenges we face as citizens of the world and while they are daunting, my time abroad got me thinking about how technology could have an impact.

When I did fieldwork in India a government worker told me how helpful it would be to have a better system to track government food supplies. In my work in Brazil, citizens explained that they have no easy way to find local public transportation options or nearby health centers. Couldn’t a “Yelp” style application for health services or an application built off of open government transportation data make their lives easier? These interventions did not necessarily need to cost a lot of money, but their impact, I felt, would be huge.

For this reason, I wholeheartedly support Code for America’s decision to scale our efforts globally by launching Code for All last year. Governments across the world are trying to do more with less; cash-strapped economies face a particular, distinct challenge in providing quality services in order to earn the trust of their citizenry. I believe that by leveraging technology wisely and connecting civic-minded people we can disrupt the status quo, empower citizens and make government work better to affect change worldwide. Through Code for All, I hope to help facilitate these connections, learn from each other, and support partners in employing our resources and lessons learned to improve local governments and positively impact their own communities.

This is why I Code for America. This is why I Code for All.

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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