Jennifer Pahlka: Do more than leave or speak up. Make open government work better.

In the face of existential challenges that test the national character of the United States of America, including long wars abroad and high unemployment at home, citizens may be tempted to tune out or voice their displeasure. With the growth of the open government movement, people now have another option: take the future of government into their own hands and try to make it work better. Today, Jennifer Pahlka, the founder of Code for America, highlighted why she believes the time for that choice has come. (If you’re following the open government movement, you’ve likely come across the work of Code for America, whose fellows have been trying to help cities work better across the country.)

…in the past twenty years, a solid chunk of American society has subscribed to the notion that the Internet was the new frontier, and a limitless one at that, and so the disgruntled could simply draw their own map, create their own circles, and be done with it. And it’s the Millennials who have brought us back down to earth and reminded us that the lesson of the Internet is that shared endeavor has value, that pooling resources is a good idea, and that government is the way we do things together that we can’t do individually. Which is why Millennials are the most pro-government generation in decades, however disgusted they would be by the debt ceiling brinksmanship, if they looked up from their laptops and smart phones long enough to notice. They are tapping into another innately American tradition, one of fundamental optimism, invention, and practicality. They’ve never met a system they couldn’t participate in, hack, mash-up, add value to or improve. And government is already meeting their expectations, providing data, enabling the creation of apps, and slowly adopting the tools of the Internet to make it easier for us to do the important work of governing ourselves together. – Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, “Exit or Voice? How About Neither?

For more on this front, watch Pahlka’s talk from the Future of Web Apps Conference, where she makes the case that civic startups are the next disruption.

Jennifer Pahlka – The Next Disruption: Government from Code for America on Vimeo.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.