Changing How Government Works
The words “government” and “efficiency” don’t often go hand-in-hand, but Code for America wants to change that.
Code for America is a non-profit organization formed in 2009 that yearly recruits a number of “fellows” – talented web developers, designers, and entrepreneurs – who work together with selected city governments and leverage the power of the Internet to make government more open and efficient. According to Code for America technical lead Ryan Resella, Heroku has played an integral part in allowing fellows to experiment and quickly iterate.
“Typically, governments are slow to adapt applications,” explained Resella. “Being able to show a prototype really fast is a lot of the reason why we chose Heroku. We could just spin up the app, show it off, and then iterate from there. It definitely helped on efficiency. We didn’t have to spend time buying a server, preparing a server and creating an application on top of that. We could just push it out to the cloud.”
Two Years and $2 Million? Try Months and Pennies on the Dollar
Discover BPS – an app to help parents and students find eligible public schools on the Web – was just one of several projects created during Code for America’s 11-month partnership with the city of Boston. While the cost for Boston to participate in the Code for America program was $250,000, the Discover BPS project cost a fraction of what it might otherwise.
“The City of Boston told us that if they were to go through traditional channel to procure such a site it would have taken the city more than a year, probably two, and approximately two million dollars,” said Code for America marketing coordinator Lauren Reid.
Time Saved is Money Earned
Ryan Resella points to Heroku’s ease of use as a key part in these cost savings.
“I think there’s a lot of cost savings using Heroku,” said Resella. “There’s a different cost-benefit analysis when you look at how much a dyno on Heroku costs when you look at the amount of time saved trying to configure a server, trying to push code to it and trying to troubleshoot issues with it.”
Joel Mahoney, the Code for America fellow who led the Boston team, said that after using Heroku for the project, it’s all he uses now.
“I used to be an EngineYard customer but now I use Heroku exclusively,” said Mahoney, explaining that ease of deployment, simple scalability and the Add-on selection set Heroku apart. “It’s so easy to scale and so easy to deploy – you no longer have to plan around these events.”
What’s to Miss About Systems Administration?
When we asked Resella what he didn’t miss about systems administration – what parts did he enjoy not having to deal with anymore – his answer was swift and to the point.
“What do I not miss? Everything about managing and maintaining a server – having someone who has to maintain it, patches, vulnerabilities, security, scaling, backups – basically everything about systems administration.”