Vote for the World Bank “Apps for Development” challenge

The World Bank is -for some- an unlikely institution to be related with the open data philosophy, but this is what they have done since April 2010. They have released development related datasets (and two APIs) in their website, allowing everyone to download, analyze and reuse over 2000 indicators. The initiative has been so successful , that the Bank is now recruiting an Open Data Evangelist.

In order to encourage and promote usage, the organization initiated an Apps for Development competition where they invited developers to submit original software applications which exploit the datasets  in new innovative ways. The submission period has now ended and the initiative has entered into the phase of public voting to select the best projects (actually the Public Voting Prize), awarding prizes amounting $45 000 in total.

The 107 submitted projects from 36 countries (30 from Africa) are grouped around desktop, mobile, web and SMS apps. Some of them use the datasets to create insightful visualizations, others are content related or support advocacy, while some attempt to solve specific problems mainly in the developing world.

  • There is one SMS app which facilitates access to World Bank by people who have no other way to communicate than an ordinary mobile phone (the almost default way for developing countries which suffer from lack of adequate internet access infrastructure)
  • There are 7 mobile apps like, for example, Contrib8 which  enables citizens to contribute financially to NGOs that support the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • 19 desktop and 80 web apps complete the submitted projects

A committee which includes Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Ory Okolloh (Ushahidi) and Kannan Pashupathy (Google) will decide on the rest of the winners.

Apart from the obvious showcase of what these kinds of competitions can offer in terms of attracting engineering talent and fostering true innovation, one other thing that I found interesting is that the Bank is using the ChallengePost platform which is a marketplace for challenges.

ChallengePost allows you to find, solve or post challenges on their platform, individually or as an organization. There is also a more “loose” way to advocate for an issue by posting a “wish” which does not involve any kind of judge or rules process. The platform joins quite a formidable array of platforms with similar aims but differing mechanics and functionalities (more on this in a future post).
I think the World Bank is commendable in using a platform like that, instead of opting for yet another solution developed from scratch, for which obviously there would be no lack of resources. This is a lesson for many similar institutions and especially governmental ones which do not seem to exploit adequately existing solutions and platforms.

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