Later this week, the winner of the final round of Washington DC’s “Apps for Democracy – Community Edition” will be unveiled. It’s another competition run by government to get developers working for social outcomes. But it’s also one that’s proved highly successful.
The first edition of Apps for Democracy yielded 47 web, iPhone and Facebook apps in 30 days, which authorities say delivered a $2,300,000 value to the city at a cost of $50,000.
Winners of that edition include the “Carpool Mashup Matchmaker” that uses mash-ups to improve uptake of carpooling within the city by making it easier to plan pick-ups and drop-offs that are close to you; and “DC Bikes – Your Guide to Biking in DC”, which, errr, does what it says in the title by drawing bike routes and facilities, bike theft data, bike maintenance and shops, again into a mash-up.
This time DC set out to capture citizens’ ideas about problems that could be solved through technology, through blog posts, email surveys, video testimonials, twitter and face to face. Then “citizen-technologists” were set the challenge to build the perfect technology solution to meet those needs. Technology developers competed through 3 rounds of “code jam”, the results of which are what we’ll hear later this week.
The winning solutions may not have much relevance to the UK. But of course they might do. And in any case the competition approach, while tried here too, appears to be delivering very tangible savings for the city and its people.