California Launches Mashup Contest: the Data Gold Rush is On

John Musser
Jun. 01 2010, 08:13PM EDT

The movement to enable ordinary citizens, aided by civic-minded programmers, to plumb the depths of government data continues today with the launch of the Apps for Californians Contest. This new mashup competition from the State of California is intended to further the goals of transparency and access:

Through Apps for Californians, application developers will be able to leverage public data sets made available by the state and local governments within California to develop innovative applications, visualizations and mash-ups that empower residents and businesses with improved access to government information and services and promote collaboration between the state, local governments and non-governmental partners.

With more than 400 data sources and 100 million records currently online, the State of California has made vast amounts of public data relating to all facets of state government including: budget, finance, income, land use, highway traffic, health statistics, education, labor and more. We are looking for developers to take this data and transform it into something useful for citizens and businesses. Mashups that we can’t even begin to forsee will help add richness to our data, and create new services that benefit the public good.

The open government movement has progressed at all levels in the past two years - see our coverage of city contests like NYC BigApps, federal initiatives like data.gov, the military's Apps for Army contest and international efforts like data.gov.uk, the Guardian's World Government Data Site and MashupAustralia. And now the nation's largest state, always a little ahead of the curve, has created the first statewide open apps contest.

California's contest is being launched in collaboration with Google, Microsoft, the Center for Digital Government, and our team here at ProgrammableWeb. We're proud to be part of this effort, serving as the hosting point for all individual app entries and connecting our mashup developer community with this contest. To enter the contest, which runs from now through August 27th, go to our special Apps for Californians contest entry page and submit your app.

Note that the contest goes beyond just the state level but also involves collaboration with California's municipal and city-level agencies including the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, as well as the City and County of San Francisco. Along with the contest, California has launched a new data.ca.gov site, with hundreds of data sets available.

Keep in mind that California is leading the way here, both via the contest and by the way they're listening to their constituents. As Carolyn Lawson, California's Deputy Director for the Technology Services Governance Division, noted on O'Reilly Radar, that when the community was asked what they'd like to see from the State of California, one of the frequent requests was more open APIs:

A re-occurring theme in IdeaScale was that the state-released data in APIs could be used by the development community. We'll be working with Microsoft's open government solution and Google's Fusion Table to make that a reality. We've been converting those data sets with those cloud tools.

These contest entries will join our growing list of California themed mashups which includes some very useful apps like the ParkInfo, an online portal to over 15,000 public parks and natural areas in California, from neighborhood parks to wilderness areas. It does this by combining multiple open APIs including Bing Maps, Google Earth, and Google Maps (more at our ParkInfo profile).

ParkInfo - Find Public Parks in California

As the Apps for Californians contest entries are submitted and reviewed, we'll be listing them here as part of our permanent mashup directory, as well as on our Apps for Californians page. In addition, all entries will also appear at this app gallery at the State of California's official contest site. All winners will be invited to an awards gala hosted by the Center for Digital Government in Hollywood on September 17, 2010.

This initiative from California is a big step in the road to more open APIs from government and we're looking forward to seeing the innovative apps created as a result.

John Musser

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