Why I’m Coding for Canada

2017 Code for Canada fellow Leon Lukashevsky reflects on why he brought his web development skills to the public service.

The Code for Canada fellowship is a rare opportunity for a software developer.

While most jobs in tech are ultimately about helping a company gratify wants, the fellowship is a chance for a developer to use their talents to address real needs. For example, if my fellowship team’s project is successful it will improve Canadian veterans’ awareness of — and access to — benefits and services that can dramatically improve their quality of life.

To be a fellow is to take part in moving our government into the 21st century. Modern governments need to understand and leverage the Internet to actualize public policy and meet residents’ expectations. The debacle that was the healtcare.gov rollout in the U.S. is a stark example of how catastrophic the consequences can be if they don’t.

As well as being about solving a particular problem, every fellowship is an experiment in how Canadian civil services might become more digitally savvy. It’s a hefty, worthwhile challenge that I recommend to any developer who is looking for a chance to make a difference in an organization that delivers crucial social services to millions every day.

“Modern governments need to understand and leverage the Internet to actualize public policy and meet residents’ expectations.

Moreover, government is a fascinating, meaningful vantage point from which to consider the potential of the web, and technology more broadly. Being embedded in the civil service is an occasion to reflect on how the Internet and data can support and serve Canadian civil society, and our values of fairness and inclusivity. When X-Road, the digital infrastructure that underlies e-Estonia was designed, the architects turned to democratic ideals for guidance. Imagine what else might be accomplished by a determined practice of — let’s call it — Democracy-Driven Development.

Building software can be a lot of fun and deeply satisfying. It involves solving challenging puzzles, and writing code can often take on the pleasant, focused rhythm of a flow state. There’s a craftsperson’s pride in getting it right.

It’s powerful too.

In our time, when software is eating the world, there’s a lot of agency in having the know-how to write it. I’m coding for Canada because it’s the most useful, purposeful, and democracy-driven way for me to put that agency to work.

Applications for the 2018 Code for Canada fellowship are open until July 2, 2018. If Leon’s story resonates with you, then apply now and start using your technology and design skills for good.