A Peace Corps for Civic-Minded Geeks | WSJ

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At least one hurricane expert put the odds of a mandatory evacuation of Tampa during the Republican convention at a reassuring 0.2%. Tropical Storm Isaac could pass right by. But that doesn’t mean no bluster. And there will be even more of it at the Democratic convention. In the next few weeks there’s no avoiding partisan froth. If we want our civic spirit genuinely cheered, we’ll have to look away from the four men in rolled-up shirt sleeves and focus closer to home.

So-called Government 2.0, tapping online power to tackle offline problems from city hall on up, is an underappreciated, and still revolutionary, idea. Also, it seems to work. Take the new nonprofit Code for America (CfA), a kind of Peace Corps for geeks. This Gov 2.0 standout handpicks a team of sprightly tech stars each year to give up their lives and jobs for 12 months, offer their services to local governments nationwide and bring the Web to the wide-eyed. This year there are 26 fellows for eight cities, and 550 have applied for the 25 to 30 spots next year. Average age: 28.

Surely, their youthful idealism will get chewed up and spat out by the bureaucracy, right? Well, maybe not. These young folks aren’t just writing the code, they seem to be cracking it.

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