Three young computer programmers aim to change the way the public does government business in Macon.
In a news conference Monday morning, the programmers with Code For America announced the beginning of a five-week effort to discover how Macon people want government to do better, while being friendly and accessible.
The $300,000 initiative backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation could lead to a number of improvements, rather than a single, large project, said Jessica Lord, one of the Code For America fellows. Lord grew up in Warner Robins and picked coding for Macon over coding for other cities, including Honolulu.
Over the next five weeks, the fellows will learn more about Macon and its government and hear ideas of how to improve the government through technology. They expect to get dozens of project ideas and will begin picking projects in the next few months.
All the projects will be open sourced, meaning anyone can use them and adapt them. Code For Georgia programs written for three cities has now been adopted by 160 communities, said fellow Nick Doiron, a New Hampshire native trained as a civil engineer.
One example: An “adopt a hydrant” program written to organize the cleaning of fire hydrants in snowfalls was written for Boston, adapted by Chicago, then reused in Honolulu for people to adopt tsunami sirens.
The goal is computer code that could adopted by Macon and easily maintained and sustained, said Zach Williams, the third Macon fellow. A Texan, his training is in psychology.
Kerry Hatcher, Macon’s network administrator, said the city and Code for America fellows already have talked about streamlining the city’s business license process or working with City Council minutes. Hatcher said the Code For America fellows will have time to work on projects the city’s staff can’t get to. The programmers are taking ideas through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said he’s excited by the potential.
“I think this is the start of something that will be really great,” he said.
The students are being housed at the Lofts at Mercer Village while they learn about Macon. The Knight Foundation is covering the costs of the programmers themselves, as well as related costs, such as travel for Macon officials to the Code For America headquarters in San Francisco. No tax money is being used.
The Knight Foundation has focused its work on communities such as Macon where the Knight brothers used to own newspapers.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.