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Code for A

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jumbe Poe ’05 envisions a government where people and their leaders work together. Now, as a member of the founding class of Code for America Fellows, he’s developing the tools to make his vision a reality.

The former computer science major is part of a five-member

team charged with an 11-month mission of developing a Web-based application that connects civic leaders and city residents in a way that empowers both like never before. The program will streamline communication, enable residents

to access information about their neighborhoods, and organize information for civic leaders so they can better understand and respond to the communities they serve. Created initially for the city of Philadelphia, the open-source software will eventually benefit other cities nationwide that opt to emulate the system. The project, “Civic Leader Network,” is one of four targeted by the

first class of the Code for America Fellows. Three other fellowship teams will work on projects in Boston, D.C. and Seattle. The competitive fellowship attracted 362 applicants for its inaugural

class, from which only 20—including Mjumbe—were selected. “Mjumbe stood out for both his passion and deep expertise,” says

Code for America spokesman Abhi Nemani. “He had built a reputation in Philadelphia as a creative and influential developer with a focus on civic problems and, from his interviews and application, it was clear he had a true commitment to building technology to make people’s lives better.” Inspired by Teach for America, Code for America (CFA) unites city

officials and talented software developers to identify and create Web solutions that address civic challenges. Fellows receive a $35,000 stipend, healthcare benefits and travel expenses. Training is provided throughout the fellowship, beginning with an intensive one-month

public administration series at CFA’s San Francisco headquarters. Fellows also benefit from expert advice from leaders in both government and Web industry sectors through CFA’s guest speaker series. Mjumbe and his team members shadowed Philadelphia city officials and community leaders throughout the month of February to determine their needs. In March, they returned to CFA’s headquarters to begin development of a software application to meet them. The resulting product will be unveiled at a conference in September, and then delivered to the city through a two- month transition process. “Philadelphia is taking steps to empower the community to organize themselves around common goals, and to coordinate with each other and the city to get what they want done,” says Mjumbe. “Our software is going to help with that coordination.”

The overarching goal of Code for America is to inspire a paradigm shift, by

infusing local governments with developers who understand technology and approach problem solving in a networked, Web-centric way. “Our city projects were picked because of their challenges: they are vague,

unclear, but core problems that the fellows will have to figure out,” Nemani says. “To be successful, they’ll have to not only become local experts but also make strong partnerships with city officials and generate buy-in—all of which they’ll have to do in a year.” Mjumbe’s team will not only build an application to create connections

between citizens and governments, but also between cities, allowing them to share the technology developed. “Code for America is part of a larger movement toward technology that

empowers people,” Mjumbe says. “I sincerely hope the tools we create will make real differences in the cities, but real success will be if we inspire others to create tools that far surpass ours.”

SPRING 2011 Har vey Mudd College 33


eveloping Web solutions for P

hiladelphia civic leaders.






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