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Disruption as a Public Service

Talking Civic Startups at BigKansasCity

abhi nemani
Dec 28, 2015 · 17 min read

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“If you had to build this tool like DiscoverBPS, how much would it cost you, and how long would it take?” They said it would take two years and cost two million dollars.

The other reason I tell this story because this one blows my mind. We asked our government partners, “If you had to build this tool like DiscoverBPS, how much would it cost you, and how long would it take?” They said it would take two years and cost two million dollars. We were able to do it in two months with a team of about one and a half people. What we’re trying to do is show what’s possible for governments. Help them understand what’s out there, what’s feasible now given the landscape we’re in with technology, and how they can leverage it to be more open and engage with citizens. On this notion of simple, be beautiful, and easy to use, this is not. This is Honolulu.gov. This is the city website for Honolulu which was one of our partners last year which I nicely got to travel to which was great. This is the city website.

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“Civic startups, civic startups, civic startups,” and this is what happened…

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Do you know how much money government spends on technology every year? 140 billion dollars, federal, state, and local, 140 billion dollars.

To put that in perspective, the video games market, like HALO, Xbox, PlayStations… 10 billion dollars. The iPhone app market which everyone’s clamoring about an IOS app, two billion dollars. The government technology market is massive, and there’s a huge opportunity to disrupt that market with interesting technology, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.

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Inaugural 2012 CfA Accelerator Civic Startups

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“We are left alone with our day…. And time is short.”

The first time I read that, I first thought, “Oh, wow. That’s really sad and pessimistic,” like we’re screwed, we’re on our own. Then I read it again, and I read the second line, “And time is short.” The point is that we have control of our day. This is our making. Our cities are our own.

“Government is what we do together.”

You can complain about government, or you can realize that we live in a democracy, and this is ours. This is ours to do, and these are our cities, and we are left alone with our day, and then time is short. What I would say is think about how you can code for America in the ways that you live your day-to-day lives with your companies, with your organizations, with your colleagues. Think about what you can do to make Kansas City even better or whatever city you’re from, because coding for America isn’t something you just do in San Francisco, it’s what you do everywhere, and it’s what you do with your cities. Thank-you.


Civic Technology

Helping society work better in the 21st century.

abhi nemani

Written by

tech optimist and political phil nerd. hacker, writer & maker: http://EthosLabs.us. fmr CDO, @lamayorsoffice; @google; @codeforamerica. http://abhinemani.com

Civic Technology

Helping society work better in the 21st century. Or at least trying to.

abhi nemani

Written by

tech optimist and political phil nerd. hacker, writer & maker: http://EthosLabs.us. fmr CDO, @lamayorsoffice; @google; @codeforamerica. http://abhinemani.com

Civic Technology

Helping society work better in the 21st century. Or at least trying to.

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