November 3, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Four cities will each receive a team of five open source Web programmers for 11 months, as selected by Code for America, a new nonprofit that’s pairing Web geeks with city governments.
The selected cities were Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Each city paid $250,000 to participate, which included submitting applications and proposals for what they wanted from a team of fellows.
Code for America recently announced its 20 fellows for 2011, chosen from among 360 applicants. The fellows will work mostly from Code for America’s San Francisco headquarters; the programmers will spend February of next year at the actual local governments they’ll be serving.
At the end of 11 months, the applications will be made public for any other local government to use or craft into something else.
One of Boston’s fellows will be Ryan Resella, senior IT analyst for Santa Clarita, Calif. Despite already having been a municipal IT employee for the past five years, Resella said he longed to apply what he had learned on the job to challenges faced by other local governments. He’s resigning his position in Santa Clarita.
“It wasn’t an easy decision — trust me,” Resella said. “Local government is pretty stable. We’ve had budget issues like every other city, but we haven’t had layoffs or furloughs.”
At the end of the 11 months, Resella said he would take a job back at Santa Clarita if one was open, but he will be open to other opportunities, especially in local governments.
“I have a master’s degree in public administration, so it’s been my passion for the last couple of years,” Resella said.
Jennifer Pahlka, the executive director of Code for America, said the organization was pleasantly surprised by the number of applicants who were coming from successful careers — mid-career — and were willing to give up a good salary.
The program pays fellows a $35,000 stipend, along with health-care benefits and travel expenses.
Given that economic troubles have sapped most local governments’ budgets, one might wonder how cities can afford Code for America’s $250,000 participation fee. Pahlka said that big cities had an easier time drumming up that amount of money. Code for America hopes to engage smaller cities too in the future, she said.
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