Code for America Fellow Ruthie BenDor visited the IFOG speaker series today to talk about her work with Code for America here in Santa Cruz. It's easy to default to the preconceived notion that government is all bureaucracy, and no action, but this does not need to be true (and is often not!). Ruthie and Code for America have been able to effectively work with local governments since there has become a niche for such collaboration. Budget cuts and a common lack of tech-savvy government workers has meant that the better, faster, smarter, and cheaper work done by CFA is extremely valuable and embraced. Code for America does not set policy, but instead illuminates and makes more accessible what government can provide for its citizens.
Perhaps most interesting about Ruthie's talk was how obviously games could contribute to Code for America's efforts. Examples thrown out today included vocational job training, driver's education tools, and serious games - such as games for health, etc. Center Director Michael Mateas even pointed out that when only thinking of examples for the briefest amount of time, the possibilities that came to mind just kept coming and coming. Games are not just a cool thing for play, but instead a useful tool that encourages participation.
A prevalent theme of Ruthie's talk was innovation. The game program here at UCSC prides itself on the creation of innovative games and systems. And to use games as educational and functional tools of government is innovation in the civic process. As far as Ruthie was aware, of the developers, designers, and usability experts currently with Code for America, none of the current fellows had a background in game design. So for the civic-minded, get engaged! Code for America.