Why I'm Coding for America

May 23, 2012. I'm attending TechCrunch Disrupt NYC with several AOL colleagues to celebrate the release of the TechCrunch iPad app. We'd been given the opportunity to attend the last day of the conference in recognition of our hard work.

Todd Park (the CTO of the United States) and Steven VanRoekel (the US CIO) happened to be speakers that day, and their passionate and spirited talk on innovation in the government blew me away. I started following Todd Park on Twitter, and that same day, he mentioned Code for America in a tweet. I had not heard of them before, and the name sounded intriguing, so I proceeded to follow them as well. Shortly thereafter, I found out about the open application for their Fellowship program.

My position at AOL came with a very decent salary, a short reverse commute, great co-workers, a flexible work environment with free gym classes, and the opportunity to build apps used by millions of people. But Todd Park made me realize there were more important problems to solve, so, with my wife's wholehearted support, I applied for the CfA Fellowship. I wanted to give back to the community and make a long-lasting impact while acquiring new skills and being surrounded by smart and talented people who share the same vision and passion for improving society.

Here I am today in San Francisco with 28 amazing Fellows, and I look forward to building solutions that not only address specific needs for citizens or a city, but also enable participation and engagement of the community as a whole. As Catherine Bracy eloquently wrote in a recent blog post:

What if these two groups—the tech industry and the denizens of the Net—put its economic, political and media clout behind fixing our broken system so it works for everyone? What if, instead of imploring people to vote on Facebook’s privacy policies, we were pushing Florida lawmakers into fixing the state’s broken voting system? What if prison reform advocates could speak as loudly as the anti-SOPA activists? Why can’t we, the tech community, figure out how to harness our talent and influence to fundamentally change the way our democracy works—not just for us, when it suits our interests, but for everyone?

I believe in Code for America's mission, and I'm thrilled to have a hand in shaping a future with a better and more efficient government.