Civic Hacking Chronicles: Earl Cameron Is Helping Build Miami’s First Participatory Budgeting Tool

The Public Interest Technology field is at the intersect of many different sectors. However, the success of Civic Technology projects is driven by Civic Hackers who are voluntarily leading, organizing, and building the society of the 21st century on the ground. As a microcosm of the industry, Code For South Florida also relies on the important work of Civic Hackers for the success of some projects like People Budget, where we have had the distinct opportunity and privilege of working with a Civic Hacker who has demonstrated outstanding dedication and leadership in their role. In late 2019, we started our work at Code for South Florida with the City of Miami to help us build on the opportunity to create the first participatory budgeting tool for the Miami-Dade College through their Public Interest Technology University Network. Through this work, we have seen many leaders and contributors step up to the plate to support this work.

This week, we want to highlight Civic Hacker, Earl Cameron, who has helped contribute and work with a student team to lead out the development of a proof of concept of PeopleBudget. When he is not tutoring programming to Miami Dade College students, he is developing a Minimally Viable Product (“MVP”) for the People Budget project. As a Student Technical Lead for the project, he has led a group of students who had no prior training or experience with modern web-development tools like HTML, CSS, and Javascript frameworks. Thanks to his efforts, the students are building technical skillsets and projects for Code For South Florida is set to deliver tool by the end of Q3 2020 that will serve as a proof-of-concept for city leaders to implement participatory budgeting tool in South Florida’s local government.

David Freer, a Computer Science Professor at Miami Dade College, instructed Earl in one of his classes on Android development and speaks highly of Earl’s work since they met two years ago. Freer says that Earl “has shown himself to be an incredibly hard worker who is committed to excellence.” On a previous project for chemistry students in the college, Earl tirelessly built the backend of an application that enabled professors to track students’ learning that received “great praise for the finished project.”

Since the beginning of 2020, Earl has led a team of students who according to Freer “might have taken a single introductory programming class”, and has “introduced them to new frameworks, version control tools, and both front-end and back-end web programming through his patient instruction.”

The Open NASA blog defines a Civic Hacker as “technologists, civil servants, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers – anybody – who is willing to collaborate with others to create, build, and invent to address challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our country.” Through his leadership, instruction, and determination, Earl has not only managed to push the development of a tool that will help change how local governments communicate and interact with citizens around budget discussions in our county, but also equipped community members with the technical skills to independently develop their own software applications.

Through Earl’s contributions to the Miami Budget App, set for submission to local government stakeholders and community leaders this upcoming September of 2020, Earl Cameron has distinguished himself as a true Civic Hacker. The founder at Code for South Florida, Gregory Johnson, has appreciated Earl’s contributions as we hope to continue supporting this People Budget tool for 2021. Through the help of Earl and other Civic Hackers, we are demonstrating the power of technology when it comes to meeting a growing community need.

About Code for South Florida

We are a non-profit company focused on tech for social impact. We use to be known as Code for Miami then in early 2020 changed our name to Code for South. We ideate, discover and prototype open source projects with the potential to modernize government and cities for the better. Our staff then partners with employers, governments, and organizations to build MVPS and deploy pilots for cities.