Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
Inviting local developers to create applications that use governments' open data is taking not only America, but the world, by storm. Certain countries across the globe have been hosting app-developing contests for some years now, while others have just recently begun joining the open data movement. After yielding immensely positive results when it started in 2008, the Apps for Democracy initiative produced a detailed guide for international governments and organizations to use as a model in creating their own open government contests for local developers.
The contests in countries from different ends of the earth produced some very creative apps that make great use of public data. A product of Apps for Democracy Finland, Legiskooppi keeps users up-to-date on legislative decisions by sifting through the abundance of public records to track voting patterns and decisions made by each individual Parliament member. DinerInspect, winner of the Canadian Apps4Edmonton contest, uses restaurant inspection data to produce a map of local food establishments with a key that shows users the number of critical violations each restaurant has had in the past year. From Spain's Desafío AbreDatos came GastroPublico, a web application that combines procurement data and Google Maps technology to inform residents on the costs, budgets, and contractual parties involved with nearby public projects. A winner from the MashupAustralia competition, Suburban Trends lets users visually compare the economics, education levels, crime rates and socio-economic statuses of Australian suburbs.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of State and technology-based, private-sector African companies hosted a multi-country app contest. Apps 4 Africa invited local developers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania to create innovative mobile applications to solve everyday issues ranging from government transparency to heath financing. The contest ran from the beginning of July to the end of August, and awarded the developers of the top three apps with $5,000 and an Apple iPad, $3,000 and a Nokia N900 smart phone, and $2,000 and a HTC Desire smart phone, respectively.
The winning apps were iCow, a voice-based application that helps farmers track the reproductive cycles of their cows; Kleptocracy Fighters Inc., which allows citizens to record and report audio, video and text on government corruption to the media; and Mamakiba, a savings calculator and prepayment tool to help low-income women budget for their maternal healthcare needs.