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Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge (and $25,000 Prize)

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, May 21 2009

Calling all developers: The Sunlight Foundation, Google, O'Reilly Media and Techweb are launching a new contest, Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge, to celebrate the launch of Data.gov today. They're looking for applications using one or more of the data sources on this new open repository of government information, and will judge submissions based on the following criteria:

1. Transparency: Does the application help citizens see things they couldn’t see before it existed?
2. Permanence: Will the application be usable over a long period of time?
3. Design & Visualization: Does the application visualize data in a new and interesting way?

The $25,000 in prizes will be divided among 14 winners, with the top three receiving airfare and hotel for a trip to Washington DC for the Gov2.0 Summit being put on by O’Reilly Media and TechWeb. There's also a special bonus prize for the best visualization. The judges are Tim O'Reilly, the founder of O'Reilly Media; Chris DiBona, Google's Open Source Program Manager and Clay Johnson, the director of Sunlight Labs. They will pick the top three finalists and then invite the public to select the all-around winner. Entries are due August 7th.

The purpose for the contest is four-fold, said Ellen Miller, Sunlight's executive director:

1. Demonstrate that when government makes data available, it makes itself more accountable and creates more trust and opportunity in its work.

2. Demonstrate the creativity of developers in designing compelling applications that provides easy access and understanding for the public.

3. Demonstrate how open data can save the government tens of millions of dollars by engaging the development community in application development at far cheaper rates that traditional government contractors.

4. Support the teams of good people INSIDE the government who understand all the above.

She added, "This contest can illustrate what can happen when government opens its doors to allow the public to fully engage. Ultimately, this contest should inspire the Obama administration to see how access to government data catalyzes the invention of Web applications that are both innovative and beneficial for us all."

[Full disclosure: I have been a consultant to the Sunlight Foundation since its founding in 2006, along with PdF co-founder Andrew Rasiej.]