Recently, Rachel Stone a Political Science student attended the 2015 Code for America Summit. Below she talks about her experience.
From September 30th to October 2nd, I was able to join twelve hundred government technologists in Oakland, CA on behalf of Provo City and the BYU Political Science Department. We were gathered for the 2015 Code for America Summit, an intensive conference of keynote sessions, panels, breakout activities, and tech exposés to enable governments to better use technology.
I had many reasons for corralling both the Provo City Council (my part-time work) and the BYU Political Science Department into sponsoring my trip. I had a deep interest in attending after independently considering “government technology” to be my research emphasis for the past 1 ½ years. I’ve written Political Science term papers about the potential for technology to streamline, optimize, and democratize government processes of every kind. I then started a Computer Science minor to learn how to build some of those technologies myself. Over the course of this year, I also traveled to Boston and Washington, D.C. to participate in tech workshops dubbed “#Hack4Congress” hosted by the Open Gov Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center. And finally, I had a chance to try my hand in the ‘govtech’ scene of the Bay Area.
My experience at the Summit was phenomenally pivotal for me. I began the experience sitting on the front row of the large room where Code for America Founder Jennifer Pahlka welcomed and briefed us on the latest updates in government technology. Her message, with all who followed her, was one of fellowship: we had a duty to our citizens and to each other to be egalitarian, human-centered, empathetic, and efficient in the difficult endeavor of marrying ‘digital’ with ‘democracy.’ I was deeply in awe. As the speakers continued, I recognized a sincere care instilled in the voice of each that this was the means by which they would improve the lives of their fellow Americans.
Throughout the three days at the Summit, I took classes on increasing representation at meetings, mapping root cause analysis, survey construction, opening data, constructing dashboards/visualizations, digital inclusion, and more. I was able to tour the tech fair to demo products already in the market that service the three distinct relationships: government to government, government to citizens, and government departments to other departments internally. It was also a prime opportunity for me to make friends in the industry. Because this is an emerging field, I have few allies in this endeavor except those whom I meet at formal gatherings such as Code for America. I exchanged cards with graduate students and potential employers alike. It became indubitably clear that I have real hiring potential, and that will only grow as I continue in this trajectory. I was much encouraged by this.