La Administración de Servicios Generales de EE.UU. se apunta al crowdsourcing, o solicitud de propuestas a los ciudadanos. La nueva plataforma ofrecerá premios a las mejores soluciones en un intento de mejorar la eficiencia y motivar la participación ciudadana de una forma real y concreta.
The United States General Services Administration, or GSA, will run government-wide contests on a new prizes-for-solutions platform, in an attempt to spur efficiency while motivating the public to participate in government in a real, concrete way. New York startup ChallengePost beat out seven unnamed competitors for the right to power prize-based crowdsourcing contests for government agencies.
Every department of government will have access to the custom-built ChallengePost platform and a set of best practices for issuing challenges to the public, which will then discuss and hopefully solve a myriad of tangible problems, large and small, facing the country.
“President Obama has empowered the public to help solve some of the most difficult problems in government,” said David McClure, associate administrator for GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies in a statement. “The use of prizes and challenges spurs innovation and brings ideas to bear on some of our nation’s most pressing problems. By providing an online challenge and prizes platform government-wide, GSA is helping agencies promote and harness innovation to more effectively engage with the public.”
The public can submit problems to be solved and help judge solutions to the government’s challenges by lending or withholding support in the form of a click. Whichever entrants — be they citizens, or in some cases, contractors — devise the best solutions could receive cash prizes. In addition to reaching out to the citizenry with various campaigns, the GSA says it is “creating a contract vehicle to make it easier for agencies to access the best challenge products and services to identify and execute challenges.”
Prizes on ChallengePost sometimes run well into five figures, and Michelle Obama’s test run (screenshot above) involved a $60,000 prize. The government’s guidelines do not set prize amounts, and cash prizes will be up to each agency and will depend on the nature of the challenge, ChallengePost CEO Brandon Kessler told Wired.com, adding, “The social motivations will almost always come in to play, in my view.”
It may seem odd that the government would offer the public cash to solve some of its problems, but the challenge-based approach has proven successful in other arenas.
Crowdsourced, prize-based contests have solved problems ranging from improving Netflix algorithms to creating the best apps for ending child obesity. In fact, this government-wide rollout of ChallengePost platform likely gelled in part due to Michelle Obama’s experience with the site, as it was mentioned in both ChallengePost’s and the government’s announcements. ChallengePost currently powers her contest to create the best Apps for Healthy Kids, which counts over 15,000 supporters since launching on March 10, and is accepting submissions until June 30.
Crowdsourcing is not without its pitfalls. Big Turkey entered Michelle Obama’s ChallengePost contest with an app that suggests you replace every other meat in your recipe book with — what else? — turkey.
We can’t imagine the National Turkey Federation taking home a cash prize from the Apps for Healthy Kids contest, but other entries looked more promising, even though surprisingly few are listed so far. The Pyramid Pile-Up block-stacking game mashes datasets from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s evaluation of discretionary calories and its MyFood-a-pedia.gov, which tells you what’s in the food you’re eating and where it fits into the daily recommendation for a 2,000-calorie diet.
That’s a lot of information to get across through a simple game app. Michelle Obama’s experiment with ChallengePost appears to be going well for the most part, although it remains to be seen how widely this platform will be deployed now that the GSA is rolling it out to all the various agencies.
Given the apparent level of this administration’s commitment to using new tools to revamp or improve outdated processes, we’d imagine a big incentive would exist to be among the first to roll out new challenges — making governmental adoption of the platform itself a contest in its own right.
One minor quibble: The government committed in April to using OpenID for public sign-in on its sites — a capability that ChallengePost does not offer. Kessler told Wired.com that the company is “rebuilding much of [its] platform to automate everything for the government, so things will be a lot different from the current ChallengePost site,” and that it will “very likely be adding [OpenID support] soon.”
Much has been said about the Obama administration learning from the kings of Web 2.0. Conversely, it will be interesting to see whether government endorsement of an open standard like OpenID can spread it within the private sector.
Republicans have also been refining their web presence. The GOP is accepting applications to beta-test a redesigned GOP.com website, and earlier this year launched a URL shortener, GOP.am, designed to be a stamp of legitimacy to help conservatives find each other in the vastness of Twitter, which was the subject of several pranks.
Whenever an organization opens up to the public, things can take an unexpected turn in the form of such pranks, noise, trolls and other hazards, which is probably why the government chose to use an outside firm with extensive expertise to provide the platform for its contests. (The GSA has also announced deals with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv, and “found [Twitter's] standard terms of service already compatible with federal usage.”)
In addition to powering Michelle Obama’s app contest, ChallengePost — conceived by a Columbia Business School ‘07 graduate before his graduation — has run prize-based, crowdsourced contests for Mozilla, Reuters and New York City.