Document Actions

Apps Contest Winners Need Better Government Data to Sustain Innovative Services

Government Technology - A popular trend ignited in 2008 when the District of Columbia initiated Apps for Democracy, a contest challenging citizen programmers to use open data sets published by government agencies to make useful apps for the public.  

That year, the district offered $35,000 in cash prizes and got back an estimated $2.3 million in apps. Similar open data programs sprouted in New York; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and others. Some of the programs operated as contests, and other cities just made the data available and promised to showcase the resulting apps. Applications came back to help citizens navigate public transit, find parking spots, locate government monuments — even to help map the safest routes for stumbling from bar to bar at night.

But now, three years after Apps for Democracy’s inception, some experts are questioning how useful the strategy has been.