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The FCC as a Platform: New Tools for Developers to Get Involved

by: Abhi Nemani, Director of Strategy and Communications, Code for America

May 16, 2011

There’s a saying that technology makes easy problems easy, and hard problems possible.
Well the FCC is taking on some very hard and important challenges, and doing so smartly with the use of technology to not only increase transparency but also leverage public participation. In particular, by opening up access to its data, the commission is enabling developers across the country to create innovative and useful applications for anyone to use.
Today, Code for America is pleased to announce that we’re helping make it a little easier to get involved by building development tools to jumpstart civic coding with the FCC.
Code for America (CfA) is a new non-profit that recruits talented, passionate, and tech-savvy individuals into public service to use their skills to make a difference. We recently held a “hack-a-thon” with some computer science students at Stanford University, and over two dozens college students and CfA fellows spent the day building “wrappers” for the FCC’s new application protocol interfaces, APIs.

Wrappers are tools written by developers for developers to make it easier to quickly access data. These tools are standard for major consumer websites such as Facebook or Twitter have wrappers because they help developers spend more time on writing their own apps, and less on trying to integrate into the platform. 
With these developer libraries, a developer can go from an idea for an interesting civic app to execution rapidly and easily. Importantly, they bootstrap the creation of a developer ecosystem around an existing platform – unlocking the potential for a sustained and engaged community supporting the FCC’s work.
We’ve built wrappers for the FCC with the major web development languages, and we’re encouraging developers to build with and on them -- as well as copy them for any other languages you’d like to code on:
• Ruby: https://github.com/codeforamerica/fcc_reboot
• Python: https://github.com/codeforamerica/FCC-Python-Egg
• PHP: https://github.com/codeforamerica/FCC-PHP-Library
We’re thrilled to be working with the FCC, as it continues to set the example for government as a platform. The commission opened up access to developers, and they responded, building tools to support the community. This is citizen coding in action, enabled by accessible government data and passionate college students wanting to make a difference. Code for America will use this mode of collaboration going forward throughout the year, partnering with students across the country, to create more useful tools and applications on the FCC platform.
We hope to keep making it easier for anyone to get involved, and we’re looking forward to seeing what’s possible.

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