Ottawa gets double the expected entrants for $50,000 open-data contest

Double the expected number of applicants entered in Ottawa’s open-data contest, which is offering $50,000 for programmers who make the best use of information to better the lives of Ottawa residents.

“We’re very impressed and very surprised at getting 101 applications,” said Mark Faul, the city’s program manager of e-media. He had expecting about 50 apps to be entered. Mark says that transit was a particularly popular category for entrants. “A lot of people are very interested in bus scheduling information. But there’s also a lot of interest in recreation around the city, as well as entertainment and restaurants.” The Ottawa Citizen outlines the contest:

The contest, which was launched in September and open to anyone living in Ontario, encouraged programmers to use open data — electronic information made available to the public, usually by governments — to create programs that could help make day-to-day life easier for Ottawans.

[Prize money] will be awarded by a seven-member judging panel. They will assess the entries based on their usefulness to residents, originality and inventiveness, ease of use and how accessible they are to the widest range of Ottawans, such as those who are visually impaired or whose English is their second language. There are gold, silver and bronze prizes available in different categories.

The winners will all be announced at a ceremony in early February.

I strongly support this sort of contest, and hopefully others follow suit. These types of apps have so much more usefulness and functionality than crappy games and alarm clocks, and nothing beats the relevance of hyper-local content in an app. But, unfortunately, prize-awarding contests like these must drive this sort of app development – because there is otherwise no money to be made. Cash flows only in apps with larger audiences – even if many are really just hyped-up junk.