Thursday, August 12, 2010

Targeting Gov 2.0 apps development - US government combating child obesity with Apps for Healthy Kids

The mash-up (or Apps) competitions we've seen in Australia thus far have been broad and largely untargeted. Governments have released a bunch of public sector datasets and invited developers to create a bunch of applications related to that data for their jurisdiction, but without a highly specific goal or purpose in mind, other than creating applications that add value to the data.

The US, which leads Australia in this area of Gov 2.0, initially took a similar approach. However it has now moved to a new level - Apps competitions focused on individual campaigns, themes and issues.

One such example is the Apps for Healthy Kids competition which, quoting from its website is,
part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Apps for Healthy Kids challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that drive children, especially “tweens” (ages 9-12) – directly or through their parents – to eat better and be more physically active.

The competition, which has received over 90 entries, requires developers to use a specific government dataset of information to develop a game or activity focused on a specific audience and campaign goal.

The prize money, $60,000, is a fraction of what it could cost a government Department to develop this many concepts to production level.

The winning entry will be used by the government for 12 months at no license cost and then reverts to the entrant's control - perhaps to become a saleable product or even be licensed by the government for ongoing use.

Besides the value of the winning application, there is substantial public relations value in holding the competition in the first place. It raises awareness of the issue, engaging people in either creating and voting for entries, or simply supporting the initiative through the 'challenge supporters' mechanism.

This type of targeted crowd sourcing approach has many different potential applications for governments from local through to federal levels. Many different issues and campaigns could provide fertile ground for these types of apps competitions.

Note that despite our current lack of targeted apps competitions, Australia isn't that far behind the US in crowd sourcing. There have been examples of online video competitions, design competitions and other approaches designed to encourage the community to engage with and produce content that can be used for the public good.

Below is the introductory video for Apps for Healthy Kids:

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