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Code for America Launches International Partnerships in Mexico, Germany and the Caribbean

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 24 2013

Code for America today announced the launch of its first official international partnerships in Mexico, Germany and the Caribbean.

After several years of recruiting technologists to spend a year in city halls across America, the organization will bring programmers, designers and other techies into close contact with governments in each of those three places to work on a specific problem area.

In Mexico City, the city government's Laboratorio para la Ciudad, a new initiative by Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, will run Code for Mexico City. blog post, CfA's International Program Manager Catherine Bracy compared the initiative to the Departments of New Urban Mechanics in Boston and Philadelphia, where city officials test out tech-savvy solutions to urban problems in a series of experiments.

The first class of fellows will be working with the city's departments of transport, health, tourism, ecology, and economic development. "CodigoDF is unique in that it only focuses on one city, but with a metropolitan area of 21 million people—larger than most of the world’s countries," Bracy wrote. "The innovations created here have the potential to scale regionally, if not globally, and we’re excited about the prospect of plugging Mexico City’s leaders into our larger network of city officials."

The Open Knowledge Foundation's German chapter will run Code For Germany. The effort will build on a 2012 initiative called Stadt Land Code (City Countryside Code) and will coordinate sending fellows to multiple cities throughout Germany.

Matthew McNaughton, founder of a Caribbean civic technology non-profit and developer community called the Slashroots Foundation, will lead Code for the Caribbean.

Code for the Caribbean will start with a pilot program in Jamaica,in collaboration with the Rural Area Development Authority, on theft of livestock and crops. As part of a fellowship program, four fellows will be embedded with RADA for six months to develop at least one application aimed at addressing what is called praedial larceny.

Code for America has made an "institutional commitment to building and facilitating [an] international network" after drawing inspiration from conversations and collaborations with organizations like the Open Knowledge Foundation and mySociety, and as CfA's focus in the U.S. has turned increasingly to "network-building among civic technologists," Bracy wrote.

The three pilot partners will all start their work in the coming weeks and run fellowship programs connecting professional technologists with government agencies.

The advisory board for CfA's international efforts consists of Stacy Donohue, director of Investments at Omidyar Network, Felipe Heusser, director at Ciudadano Inteligente, Ginny Hunt, principal for strategy and civic innovation at Google, Andrew McLaughlin, SVP at betaworks and CEO of Digg, Ory Okolloh, director of investments at Omidyar Network, Tom Steinberg, founder and executive director at MySociety, Chris Vein, CIO at the World Bank and Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT.

On April 1, Bracy jokingly announced that Cfa's first international partner would be North Korea, as part of a Code for DPRK initiative, to work on projects such as "creating sophisticated and elegant maps to make target planning more efficient," "upgrades to mobile telephony infrastructure to replace the analog hotline to the South," and "a crowdsourced, gamified DMZ app to engage citizens in border protection."

Bracy joined CfA to direct its international efforts after her work on the Obama campaign.