Sunlight Foundation’s Apps for America

Sunlight Foundation is a very cool organization that I've been close to. They are involved with many efforts to further government transparency and accountability, often using technology, but not only.

Recently they ran their second competition looking for interesting and useful applications and tools to be built using or leveraging data published by government.

It's a clever model: offer $10,000 or so to a winner who creates and submits the most interesting entry. Give applicants encouragement, publicity and assistance. I have to believe that this creates a groundswell of energy and hacking that furthers the foundations goals and uses the prize money in a highly leveraged way.

" “By setting government data free on its new site, the Obama administration enabled and encouraged the creation of fresh, new ideas that could help citizens get more involved in their government,” said Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs. “Seizing upon this important moment, Sunlight organized this Apps for America contest to catalyze the development of useful applications and visualizations to make this information more comprehensible to more people. We also wanted to demonstrate to the government that when it makes its data available, it makes itself more accountable and creates more trust and opportunity in its actions.”

The latest Apps for America competition has just announced its winners.

The first prize winner is, a Web application designed by Forum One Communications that lets anyone—no programming background required—choose different government data sets and mash them up to create visualizations and compare results on a state by state basis.

The second prize winner is GovPulse, which allows viewers to quickly search the Federal Register in a variety of ways, including by agency or date. And the third was, which lets users type in their zip code and get back a wealth of information about their neighborhood drawn from different agencies.

Very cool!