THE BLOG
07/14/2014 06:31 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

How Do We Build a 21st Century Government? Start With Reflecting Our Communities

At the intersection of technology and government we are seeing an incredible momentum take hold. People from all over the world are rallying together and uncovering new ways that technology can fix some of the complex challenges that our governments face. The vision is a government that works by the people, for the people, in the 21st century. To see that vision become reality, those working on the problems must reflect the diversity of the communities they are serving.

At Code for America, we're contributing to that vision through our Fellowship program, which embeds technologists in local governments for a year-long partnership to build better cities.

Right now, and through July 15, we are actively seeking applicants for the Fellowship in 2015. We need people who can design and develop software, master data, have skills in research or urban planning, and have a passion to serve. These skills are critical, but building a diverse group of Fellows is just as important.

Whether they are developing applications to improve education or criminal justice systems, the solutions built will better meet the needs of more citizens in the community if their voice is taken into consideration as it is created. When our Fellows are representative of the community, so are the solutions they develop.

You can see that reflected in current Fellows' in-progress work that they recently showcased at BETA, our mid-year report out on the 2014 Fellowship. Watch Tiffani Bell and her Code for America team talk about their work with Atlanta tackling open data, Molly McLeod and the team in Long Beach discuss reducing emergency room calls through data analysis, and don't miss Maya Benari beat box during a mini-tech issue.

While there is always room for improvement, we are proud of the diversity we've been able to achieve in our program so far. In 2014, about half of our Fellows are female, transgender or gender queer, and about 43 percent identify as a person of color. But what makes the culture at Code for America special is not our statistics, but our values. We value human-centered design, empathy, inclusive community engagement, and we make space for experimentation and collaboration.

Room for improvement at the career level means building a pipeline earlier as well. We're lucky that there are great organizations dedicated to encouraging women, moms, and girls to join the technology field. Groups like Women Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Mother Coders are doing an incredible job of strengthening the pool of diverse talent.

Our program -- and the future of our communities -- is stronger when a range of people contribute their skills and unique perspective to solving such fundamentally important problems. We're not there yet, but I clearly see a future where both technology and government reflect the diverse communities that they serve.