Transferring Code for Australia

It's been almost a year since I launched Code for Australia to garner interest in the project. I've since stopped working on it, but there is a team of people who will be taking charge of the project from now on. Their current website is here:, but they'll be moving to once that domain frees up.

When I first began, I was looking to implement Code for Australia in the same vein as Code for America. Code for America started out with projects called fellowships. These were essentially paid internships that got teams of developers usually around 3, to work for participating city governments and complete a software project that could enrich the civic services for people. You can see some of the results of these projects here:

The difference between getting Code for America to do these projects and getting contractors to do projects was that Code for America, was that Code for America was focused on open innovation. They utilised open source technologies, and its developers were volunteers, not employees. Furthermore the projects they focused on were civic problems. Problems that affect people living in the city, not necessarily some sort of administrative or business function of the city government. This is a very abridged description of the amazing work that Code for America has done (they do a lot more now), so you read up more about them here:

So I started talking to people in Canberra. Went to the various meetups and acquired meetings with various influential people involved in the government tech space. I actually managed to talk Sota Yamashita who wanted to start Code for Japan, and it has started! Now I didn't manage to do a very deep search in Canberra, but I managed get enough information to decide that Code for Australia wouldn't work the same way it could work in Code for America or Code for Europe. The main problem was the concept of government tendering. So the way Australian government agencies get services, is that they release a contract out so that multiple vendors can fairly bid on the project. The vendor with the lowest price balanced with good quality or long term stability would get the contract. One of the people I met told me that it wouldn't be fair for the government to give special preference to an organisation such as Code for Australia. How could they justify that preference, especially when there are small vendors actually competing for jobs? After all, to them Code for Australia would just be another vendor. Another big difference is the the lack of philanthropy (and general startup investment) in Australia, which hinders the progress of non-profit startups compared to the US. I also got the feeling that state and city governments in the US were more independent, allowing them to make their own funding decisions, but I may be just speculating here from an outside observer.

For Code for Australia to start, it wouldn't work from top down, that is fellowships with city governments to mass support like brigades. Instead it needs to go the other way, from grass roots brigades, and work its way up to fellowships which means it would be recognised by the Australia government as an alternative vendor that focuses on a civic goods/services niche.

But I also realised that I didn't want to wrangle with government officials having chats all the time, and I didn't really want to start the grassroots campaign. I wanted to get stuff done. I wanted to build innovative software, and I wanted to help others learn to build innovative software (and in the future hardware) via Polycademy. So I left Code for Australia as just a website stating its intentions.

But a few weeks ago, I learned about CodeforAus, because Pia Waugh blogged about it in the Govhack blog. And the one of the founders of CodeforAus sent a tweet to the Code for Australia twitter profile, asking if we could talk. So we talked and I told him about my experience, and that I'm happy for them to take up the project and the domain name and other profiles, and I would be also happy to join the team to help them promote Code for Australia in Canberra and Sydney.

The current team of Code for Aus is: Alvaro Maz, Dan Groch, Jacob Lindsay, Chris D'Aloisio, and finally me whos not partaking in the internal operations, but helping them wherever I can.

Hopefully projects will be setup all over Australia. There's a lot of civic problems we can address!

Posted by CMCDragonkai on 2013-11-28 13:09:58 Tags: codeforaustralia Want to Comment?