We caught up with Peter, who is just finishing his Fellowship program here in Australia. He started in mid February 2015, and will finish the program in approximately three weeks. We asked Peter a few questions about his experience, and wanted to hear why he thinks that people should get involved with such an opportunity:
Now that you’re a Fellow, what doors have been opened to you?
I started out as a Code for America Fellow for about a year in Mesa, Arizona, so coming to Australia and learning about a new culture as well as different ways various people approach the idea of tech and government was extremely interesting and eye-opening for me. I knew that the Fellowship program would open doors and new experience for me and the future, and I know that I will end up at some very cool places thanks to having this opportunity.
What key lessons did you learn from the Fellowship Program?
Firstly, I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for the talent and dedication brought forward by members of the public. They choose to use their time to help individuals in society, and this is where this stereotypically bad impression people have when thinking of government is laid to rest. The media loves to focus on political shenanigans, which politicians are eating what, all that jazz. You never hear about the public servants who, like us, are doing their best regardless of who is ostensibly running everything. They work tirelessly for the public good and it's likely that most of the systems the country is built on, whether that's roads and transit or schools and energy, depends on these unsung heroes whose names you'll likely never know.
Did you feel like you had a direct and positive impact on the community?
Definitely. Our challenge is to build services that work for the public, which means everyone. The population of New South Wales, for example, is about 7.5 million. I've been doing a couple of things up in NSW, like getting connected to others in the community and helping connect those who are equally passionate about the idea of civic tech. Additionally, I am supporting the work that the Department of Education is doing to help make information more accessible and bring innovation to government.
How did you use your skills with Code for Australia to help deliver key public services?
I had a couple goals. The first was to help design and build some prototypes and leave the department better off by the time I had to wrap up. I think we're basically there now, and I'm hoping to put a bit more time into this to wrap that part up. The second goal was to do whatever I could to help build the civic tech community up in Sydney. That's going pretty well too; I've visited a number of very awesome tech meetup groups and shared the Code for Australia idea with them, and connected with quite a few interested and talented technologists up there. By the time I'm done, my hope is that the tech scene up there is more aware of and connected to groups like Code for Australia as well as the Open Australia Foundation (which does fantastic work related to openness and transparency of government for the purpose of empowering citizens).
What sort of person would you recommend The Fellowship program to and why?
“The Fellowship Program Needs people who are good at a few things: understanding a problem, designing a solution, and building it. Those people are going to be embedded for a short time, but they need to research and change the internal culture of the development and how they are related to tech. To sum it up, people who are good communicators, those who can talk to people as well as computers.”