Jennifer Pahlka
Author, Businesswoman, and Political Advisor

Jennifer Pahlka is the author of Recoding America, and a pioneer in making government work for people in the digital age. She founded Code for America in 2010 and led the organization for ten years. In 2013, she took a leave of absence to serve as U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer under President Obama and helped found the United States Digital Service. She served on the Defense Innovation Board, started by the late Ash Carter, under Presidents Obama and Trump. 


At the start of the pandemic, she also co-founded United States Digital Response, which helps government meet the needs of the public with volunteer tech support, and she now serves as the organization’s board chair. She is also on the board of America’s Frontier Fund and a trustee of She has received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and was named by Wired as one of the 25 people who has most shaped the past 25 years. Her 2012 TED Talk, “Coding a Better Government,” has been viewed over 1M times, and she has keynoted conferences from South by Southwest to the National League of Cities. 


Jennifer is a graduate of Yale University and lives in California with her husband, Tim O’Reilly, their pitbull, and ten chickens.

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A bold call to reexamine how our government operates—and sometimes fails to—from President Obama's former deputy chief technology officer and the founder of Code for America

Policy Divides; Delivery Unites Politics is often described as “how the policy gets done.” But how the policy gets implemented – its delivery – is a whole different kettle of fish. Elites think in terms of policy, but the rest of the country knows about delivery. We know about it because it’s the fabric of our daily lives. When what government delivers disappoints or, worse, frightens or insults us, it shapes who we are as citizens, whether left or right. Improving our ability to deliver not only serves both parties, but it also strengthens our democracy.
Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face When first launched, with millions enrolling, it served a total of eight users on its first day. But by the end of the first enrollment period, the site had helped even more people than had been planned before its disastrous launch. And when the agency responsible for the site took on its next big project, it was on time, dramatically under budget, and so easy to use that their clients, used to constant frustration, wondered if they landed on the wrong website. That punch to the face turned into a dramatic transformation. How can you turn adversity into resilience?
Are we starving government by design? Or starving it of design? Longstanding fights over big government vs small government are getting our country nowhere. We can have a government that's less burdensome on businesses and the public and gets better social outcomes, and the key isn't necessarily more money. It's recognizing that what operates our government today is a mess of policy, process, and technology that has accrued over time without ever being designed to do what we need it to. Redesigning the machinery of public services is a choice we can and should make. What does that look like, and how do we make it happen?

Learn more about Jennifer on Forbes.