KnightBlog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Journalism
Feb 18, 2015

Civic tech class will help communities create tools to improve government

Posted by Ben Kallos


Photo by Flickr user Paloma Baytelman.

Ben Kallos is a member of the New York City Council, who will serve as a coach this spring for The GovLab Academy, a free online community supported by Knight Foundation to help solve public problems to improve people’s lives.

This spring, I will be teaching a course on civic tech that can be used in local legislatures with The GovLab Academy at New York University, coaching teams on their efforts to make government more open and accountable. I will be co-teaching the eight-week course, titled “Civic Tech for Local Legislators and Legislatures,” with Arnaud Sahuguet, chief technology officer of The GovLab, most recently a product manager for Google.org.

Before I became a City Council member, I was a civic technologist and activist seeking to make government better through technology.  In one such action, I FOILed Albany voting records and posted them online for the public to see, prompting the legislature to follow suit. Because of this background, I am especially looking forward to helping other civic technologists create tools that will make government more transparent, efficient and engaging.

These tools have great potential to be tools that the next generation of citizens actually uses to engage with their local officials. The funding from Knight Foundation will allow me to assist teams in doing just that, with firsthand knowledge of how governments use technology.

Participants in this program will be working on their own projects related to local law- and policy-making from a variety of angles – such as customizing a code base, reconfiguring key processes or designing new services. We will work closely together and with other peers and experts to ensure that what comes out the other end is a minimum viable product ready for testing and even more ready to change the world. 

If you are passionate about using technology to improve your city and want to see your tools get used, please apply to the “Civic Tech for Local Legislatures and Legislators” coaching program.

I look forward to working with you to build a better government!

“Civic Tech for Local Legislators and Legislatures” is open to anyone from anywhere. The course starts the week of March 2 and ends on April 24. Apply by Feb. 25 at govlabacademy.org.

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