EIGERlab officials announced today that Rockford has been accepted as the 35th city in the world to have an official Code for America Brigade.
Rockford joins cities with a team of smartphone application developers running the gamut from “A,” Albany, N.Y., and Akron, Ohio, to “Z,” Zagreb, Croatia.
The brigades use available government data to build apps that improve life for residents, whether by creating a map of all daily road-construction projects or by listing where the closest flu shot clinics are to your location. By becoming a part of the Code for America “family,” Rockford app developers will be able to collaborate with the more than 3,000 volunteers worldwide.
Code for America is a nonprofit founded in 2009 to bring technology developers together with municipal governments to promote openness and efficiency in government.
Several groups, including the city of Rockford and EIGERlab, began working to attract enough tech developers to create a brigade in 2013. The goal is not only to increase the number of apps that make life easier in Rockford, but also to attract more Web-industry professionals to the area.
“We want to get the word out that we have an IT community and how do we create a brand,” EIGERlab Executive Director Dan Cataldi said. “Getting a Code for America Brigade gives us that brand that we can use to attract talented professionals.”
Jen Hall, who helps facilitate the IT Roundtable for the EIGERlab, said the brigade will begin by meeting at 9 a.m. every second Saturday of the month at EIGERlab, 605 Fulton Ave. The brigade is using Meetup.com to schedule more events under the group name “Code for Rockford.”
Among the group’s newest interested parties is Chris Nwakalo. Nwakalo was born in Boston, then moved to Beloit, Wis., went to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and now is the chief brand and strategy officer for New Vybe Fitness in Loves Park.
“If you look at the iPhone, it’s changed the world in five years,” Nwakalo said. “When I went to Whitewater, I was surprised at the negative feelings towards Beloit. I hear a lot of the same things about Rockford. I want to learn more about Rockford’s issues and how we can use technology to address them.”
Alex Gary: 815-987-1339; firstname.lastname@example.org; @alexpgary