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Tech savvy Jennifer Pahlka is leading the campaign to upgrade the U.S. government. Her non-profit organization Code America uses technological innovation to make it easier for citizens to access and connect with government information and services.

Jennifer created Code for America to convince "rock star" IT designers to take a year off and use their super powers to improve the one entity many of them view as their arch enemy: government. Her fellows spend a year typically working with a city council to solve civic problems quickly through technological innovation and citizen participation. While traditional government programs sit in legislation for one or two years, her fellows spend a few days writing apps that go viral and yield tangible results almost immediately. Some examples include: an app to adopt a Boston fire hydrant and shovel it out when it snows, and an app to adopt a Hawaiian tsunami siren and monitor it for technical problems.

Since 2013 Jennifer has been acting as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States. She was the chief architect of the United States Digital Service, a federal organization that is using the best of product design and engineering practices to make accessing government services as simple as buying a book.

Jennifer has earned national recognition for her landmark accomplishments in innovating a work culture that is typically known for it's slow-paced bureaucracy. She has received a $1.5 million grant from Google for her work with Code America and has also been named a HuffPost Gamechanger.

Full Profile

Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and Executive Director of Code for America, which matches software geniuses with US cities to reboot local services. Code for America is a nonprofit which, according to the Washington Post, “is the technology world’s equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America… [offering] an alternative to the old, broken path of government IT.” Previously she had worked at CMP Media with various roles in the computer game industry. She was the co-chair and general manager of the Web 2.0 conferences.

Before founding Code for America, Pahlka spent eight years at CMP Media (now part of United Business Media), where she led the Game Group, responsible for the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Game Developer Magazine, andGamasutra.com. She oversaw the dramatic growth of GDC from 1995 to 2003, and launched the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards. She was also the executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), an independent non-profit association serving game developers around the world. During this time she also served on the advisory boards of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and the GDC, and on the board of directors of the IGDA.

More recently, from 2005 to 2009, she was the co-chair and general manager of the Web 2.0 events for TechWeb, a division of United Business Media, in partnership with O’Reilly Media. In that role, she proposed the creation of the Web 2.0 Expo, and became the co-chair for the event. She also played a key role in managing the Gov 2.0 Summit and Gov 2.0 Expo.

In her role at the White House, Pahlka was responsible for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and for other programs designed to use technology to improve the citizen experience of government. She set in motion the creation of the United States Digital Service within the Executive Office of the President, and helped start 18F at the General Services Administration.

After organizing Code for America fellowships for others on the local government level, Pahlka described the opportunity to serve in the federal government as her “own fellowship year of sorts.”. Federal CTO Todd Park originally tried to recruit Pahlka to run the Presidential Innovation Fellows, a program loosely modeled on Code for America. In her role as Deputy US CTO she managed Round 2 of the program and organized the creation of Round 3, but her principal goal during her year at the White House was to create something more equivalent to the UK’s Government Digital Service. Her efforts led to the launch of the United States Digital Service as part of the Office of Management and Budget, and 18F at the General Services Administration.


Jennifer Pahlka Speaker Videos Back to top

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: Keynote


Jennifer Pahlka makes the case that government is innovative, too. She demonstrates how internet and app technologies are being harnessed to make public sector organizations and their programs more accessible, more transparent, and more efficient.

Showing actual examples of projects that coders have worked on, Jennifer reveals how tech-savvy volunteers have eased the experience of navigating government websites by analyzing the data citizens actually search for (as oppose to what the government wants to tell them) and simplifying interfaces. Discussing a revamp of Honolulu.gov, she points out that much of this work has been inspired by the U.K. Government Digital Services initiative which was started after a $10 billion failure in Health IT.

"The Government Digital Services there is doing amazing things showing to the world that this stuff can work and can work well," she states, "not just information, but transactions and services."

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: Opening Keynote


Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: TED talk



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Code America founder Jennifer Pahlka challenges the tech community to change the world for the better. Showcasing various examples of how her Coders have accelerated solutions to civic problems, she makes a convincing case that digital coding can help citizens connect with their government and each other. With past professional experience at CMP Media and leadership positions at TechWeb, Jennifer provides priceless insights on underexplored potential in the tech community.

Popular Keynotes:
  • Coding the Next Chapter of American History
  • Coding a Better Government
  • Web 2.0
  • Civic Engagement, for Good




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Popular Keynotes:
  • Coding the Next Chapter of American History
  • Coding a Better Government
  • Web 2.0
  • Civic Engagement, for Good


Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: Keynote


Jennifer Pahlka makes the case that government is innovative, too. She demonstrates how internet and app technologies are being harnessed to make public sector organizations and their programs more accessible, more transparent, and more efficient.

Showing actual examples of projects that coders have worked on, Jennifer reveals how tech-savvy volunteers have eased the experience of navigating government websites by analyzing the data citizens actually search for (as oppose to what the government wants to tell them) and simplifying interfaces. Discussing a revamp of Honolulu.gov, she points out that much of this work has been inspired by the U.K. Government Digital Services initiative which was started after a $10 billion failure in Health IT.

"The Government Digital Services there is doing amazing things showing to the world that this stuff can work and can work well," she states, "not just information, but transactions and services."

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: Opening Keynote


Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder: TED talk