Her work has changed the way that government views and uses technology and data for the benefit of its citizens. Since its founding in 2011, Code for America (CFA) has helped equip local governments across the country with tools and practices of the digital age. The aim is to promote “21st century government”–government that harnesses the power of technology to be truly by and for the people, and more effectively delivers services to the public, especially to those historically under-served.
From Pahlka’s TED Talk: “[A]n app that takes a couple of days to write and then spreads virally, that’s sort of a shot across the bow to the institution of government. It suggests how government could work better–not more like a private company, as many people think it should. And not even like a tech company, but more like the Internet itself. And that means permissionless, it means open, it means generative. And that’s important.
But what’s more important about this app is that it represents how a new generation is tackling the problem of government — not as the problem of an ossified institution, but as a problem of collective action.”
Code for America connects brigades of tech industry professionals—including designers, developers, data analysts and others—with city governments across the country. Over the course of a year, fellows volunteer to work with city halls to help better serve the community. To date, fellows have worked with more than 100 local governments across the country. They’ve also organized thousands of volunteers willing to dedicate a few hours a week to work on challenges in their own community.
From 2013-14, Pahlka served as the U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she designed and helped found the United States Digital Service.
Pahlka was recognized in September 2016 as one of Living Cities' 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial opportunity gaps.