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Winners for Apps My State in Victoria Show the Limits of Application Contests

by Andrea Di Maio  |  June 22, 2010  |  9 Comments

Another application contest (Apps My State) of the endless series started by AppsForDemocracy in DC back in 2008 ended this week in Victoria, Australia. This has been presumably the biggest contest so far in terms of prize size (35,000 AUD for the winner and good prizes for runner-ups too).

The winner was Which Bin, an application available over the web or for iPhone, which allows a consumer to know where to dispose of a given product. The iPhone apps provide a bar code scan through the camera, and uses the user location to advice which (type of) bin to use. The web application requires to type the numeric code that is below the barcode and the postal code of the location.

While this looks like a great idea, it has a few shortcomings. First of all not all products have a numeric code associated to the barcode (I just have a couple of used ink cartridges in front of me for which this is the case). Second, the application does not provide a complete product database but allows the “community” to build the database: if the product is not in the database, the user is asked to provide details and add to the database. I tried three products (all purchased in Australia) and none of them was in the database.

Now it is quite likely that there are people who are so keen about the environment to spend the time required to fill the product form on their laptop or iPhone. But I would argue that the majority will just be put off by the effort required and throw the product wherever they feel makes most sense.

The second prize went to Transportle, which allows you to compare different transportation options between two locations, in terms of time, price and carbon footprint. I tried it for Melbourne to Canberra and it did not even find a train option, nor did it suggest a flight. At first glance, this looks like something that should be relatively easy to do mashing up with Google Maps, where you already have time and exact route. In reality it provides many other functions, especially in the area of detailed cost and impact analysis, which may be useful to commuters and heavy travelers.

Other prizes went to applications reporting to crime watch organizations, providing easy access to train timetables, location of street markets, and so forth. Some went to applications that – at least at first sight – have little to do with government data, but can still be interesting personal tools for Victorian citizens (such as a reminder application).

These are all great ideas, but in most cases far from being ready for prime time. The winner app, for example, requires a complete product database and would not be sustainable as a community example. For this contest, as well as for many others around the world, the real challenge – like for almost anything web 2.0 – is to find a business model that makes applications sustainable over time, without increasing the cost for government.

Category: web-20-in-government  

Tags: government-20  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Winners for Apps My State in Victoria Show the Limits of Application Contests

  1. It’s sad because some government agency (ACCC? DEWH? TGA? FSA?) probably unknowingly has a large product database that could help the Which Bin community broaden their reach if not complete it.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Moore, Andrea DiMaio. Andrea DiMaio said: Winners for Apps My State in Victoria Show the Limits of Application Contests – #gov20 #opengov #ogov […]

  3. Jason Smale says:

    Thanks for highlighting my Which Bin application on your blog. I’m hoping to work with the Victorian government to significantly increase the size of the database before releasing the application into the App Store, which will then the community can support. There are a few limitations at the moment, but I think think the application is a step in the right direction and hopefully just the first of many releases.

  4. Justin Longo says:

    Re “presumably the biggest contest so far in terms of prize size” (and at the risk of staring a “who’s bigger” argument), the Apps for Climate Action Contest offers over CND 40,000 in prizes for the best web and mobile apps that raise awareness of climate change and inspire action to reduce carbon pollution.

  5. Re: Justin’s who’s bigger “discussion”

    The total prize pool was AUD100,000 which is almost CND90,000.

    The first prize for the open category received AUD35,000.

    At time of announcement it was the biggest government apps competition so far – there was a Google’s comp that had a couple of million worth of prizes.

    Good luck with the Canadian comp.

  6. Surely ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ organisation or ‘Planet Ark’ could help out??
    Some great ideas there!

  7. pizzican says:

    Good point.
    But could things be seen from another perspective.
    Application contests make the development of applications to happen \before\ getting the money (while the traditional way in public sector is the other way around: first the money, then the application).
    Maybe the contest are useful to let good ideas to emerge (and to be developed in \preliminary\ version). Then prize/fund could be constrained to be used for evolving the preliminary version in a operational/sustainable application.

  8. Kerry Webb says:

    I agree with your assessment of “Which Bin”. As a demonstrator project that may spark further ideas, it’s OK. But really, I’m disappointed. This is a problem with low hanging fruit: the next ones you try to pick are a lot harder to get to.

  9. […] Kundra, while the most recent ones I’ve heard about is the one launched in Edmonton after the one in Victoria, Australia awarded its winners earlier this […]

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