Blog post

An Endless Stream of Government Data Contests

By Andrea Di Maio | October 14, 2009 | 2 Comments

open government data

Reading a blog post on Programmableweb I’ve been reminded (as if there was a need) that there are six different mashup contests currently going on, including two in Australia, one in San Francisco and one in New York.

As I said a while ago, this is a sign that government 2.0 is reaching what we at Gartner call the peak of inflated expectation. It is also a clear demonstration of how governments work: once somebody has a new idea that works (to some extent) and the press, consultants, vendors and the public at large (assuming it cares) give their blessing, it is promoted to a “best practice”.

While I have been a supporter of mashup contests for quite some time. I am still waiting to see a real blossoming of useful applications and the creation of value for the person in the street. Numbers of submitted applications remain quite low and the degree of innovation is also quite limited, as most are nothing else mashups with Google Maps or Virtual Earth.

I remain convinced that these sort of contests will not deliver significant value until when they are better segmented and more explicitly targeted to government employees who, in spite of what some think, are better placed that Java programmers out there to make sense out of raw government data.

This is why the best news I read this week concerns the RFI issued by the US Army to gather information necessary to deploy a user edge programming environment: recognizing that employees (i.e. soldiers) do have skills and knowledge tha can be put to fruition, they looking into how to pick their staff’s brain rather than just going to the “crowd”.

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  • In effect, you need the ‘public entrepreneur’; ‘Fellow-travellers’and a ‘guardian angel’;, and here’s why…

    Unless its in their job description, having a government employee participate would be a misappropriation of public money.

    It is more likely that an existing initiative might be designed to fulfil the requirements of a competition; if there was perceived political/public value. The people who participate in such contests (entrepreneur) are unlikely to understand such value, but their manager (angel) might.

    If there is no existing funding, for a government employee to participate, they would need their manager to put in a bid for funding.

    In our country, government budgets are submitted in November and available the next July. So they need a minimum of 7 months notice 😉

  • @Mike – Good point, but I was not implying that government employees should necessarily apply for general contests, nor that they should be given monetary prizes. There are other mechanisms to tap into employees’ creativity and willingness to help, and to recognisze them (e.g. by using internal social software to “celebrate” them).