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.

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.


Should the White House be spending time making animated GIFs?

Earlier today, however, a mechanical engineer named Claudio Ibarra commented on a Google+ thread that he thought that the animated GIF was a “waste.”

Beware openwashing. Question secrecy. Acknowledge ideology.

You could spend a long day listing all of the organizations or individuals who are putting government data online, from Carl Malamud to open government activists in Brazil, Africa or Canada.

What is the ROI of open government?

Putting a dollar value on clean water, stable markets, the quality of schooling or access to the judiciary is no easy task. Each of these elements of society, however, are to some extent related to and enabled by open government. If we think about how the fundamental democratic principles established centuries ago extend today purely […]

Cameras in the courtroom: Will SCOTUS ever go live online?

In an age where setting up a livestream to the Web and the rest of the networked world is as easy as holding up a smartphone and making a few taps, the United States Supreme Court appears more uniformly opposed to adding cameras in the courtroom than ever.

Samantha Power: OGP is President Obama’s signature governance initiative

On January 10th, 2013, the OpenGov Hub officially launched in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub has similarities to incubators and accelerators, in terms of physically housing different organizations in one location, but focuses on scaling open government and building community, as opposed to scaling a startup and building a business. Samantha Power, special assistant to […]

Civic app for finding flu shots goes viral

The 2012-2013 influenza season has been a bad one, with flu reaching epidemic levels in the United States.

Open Government Partnership hosts regional meeting in Chile

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has released statistics on its first 16 months since its historic launch in New York City, collected together in the infographic embedded below. This week, Open government leaders are meeting in Chile to discuss the formal addition of Argentina to the partnership and the national plans that Latin American countries […]

African News Challenge funds data journalism and open government tech

The post-industrial future of journalism is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. The same trends changing journalism and society have the potential to create significant social change throughout the African continent, as states moves from conditions of information scarcity to abundance. That reality was clear on my recent trip to Africa, where I […]

Election 2012: A #SocialElection Driven By The Data

Social media was a bigger part of the election season of 2012 than ever before, from the enormous volume of Facebook updates and tweets to memes during the Presidential debates to public awareness of what the campaigns were doing there in popular culture. Facebook may even have booted President Obama’s vote tally.

PollWatchUSA enables anyone with a smartphone to act as a poll monitor

Pollwatch, a mobile application that enabled crowdsourced poll monitoring, has launched a final version at, just in time for Election Day 2012. The initial iteration of the app was conceived, developed and demonstrated at the hackathon at the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City.


Follow GovFresh