"We need to help these people in a much less burdensome, and frankly, less insulting way"
By Lee Mannion
OXFORD, April 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Jennifer Pahlka believes that coding can help deliver a better U.S. government that works to help reformed felons earn an honest living and public servants frustrated by poor technology.
After seeing the challenges working in child welfare, she founded San Francisco-based
"People need help for a very wide range of reasons and they've hit a rough spot and they just need a little bit of help," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the Skoll World Forum, an annual gathering of 1,200 social entrepreneurs.
"We need to help these people in a much less burdensome, and frankly, less insulting way. We can give them that help in a way that is dignified and respects their time."
Pahlka was in Oxford - where
The Skoll Centre at Oxford University aims to increase the impact of social entrepreneurs by helping them to set up new ventures, training leaders and carrying out research, from health to climate change to education.
Britain is seen as a global leader in the growing social enterprise sector, home to about 70,000 businesses set up to address social and environmental issues that employ nearly 1 million people, according to industry body Social Enterprise UK.
Pahlka said her organisation is unusual.
"Most social enterprises work around government," she said.
"They are essentially trying to supplement where
Code for America's websites reduce the time-consuming bureaucracy of form filling that might deter applicants to about 10 minutes, she said, and they are designed for smartphone users to cater to the millions who do not have a computer at home.
One innovation is Clear My Record, which allows users to get rid of criminal
Pahlka was inspired by the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, whose online campaign
"The application of modern tech and modern approaches to
Pahlka went on to work for Obama as his deputy chief technology officer in 2013 and helped found the United States Digital Service, which helps federal agencies improve their websites and simplify digital services.
"Public servants who help people get food assistance or take care of a kid who needs to be in a foster home - those people need tools to do their jobs," she said.
"We weren't - and still in
Code for America aims to help more than 500,000 people in need with more effective government services in more than 70 cities, states
(Reporting by Lee Mannion; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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