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Apps for Democracy Yeilds 4,000% ROI in 30 Days for DC.Gov

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On September 11th, 2008 Vivek Kundra, CTO of Washington DC, asked iStrategyLabs how we could make their revolutionary open Data Catalog useful for the citizens, visitors, businesses and government agencies of DC. My response was:

“You can do one of two things. You can spend years and millions of dollars contracting this out to big consultancies – and you’ll end up spending twice what you thought you would and get half the quality you hoped for…which is what governments do now. Or, the other way is to have an innovation contest where we put the data in the hands of the people, and give them cash prizes and recognition for their efforts.”

This spark ignited what became a historic moment in democracy through technology innovation. I came back two days later with a proposal on how iStrategyLabs could create a new method for innovation in government through a contest called Hack the District – which was…let’s just say…a little over the top as a name – and was wisely renamed by Vivek and his team to Apps for Democracy. It’s such a better name looking back at it now!

So, armed with the perfect strategy for how to get this done, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) was able to give iStrategyLabs a green light in 3 weeks time and the creative freedom to bring this to life IN SIX DAYS (Scott McCaughey is our godlike designer who pulled the site together in that short period of time).

This is the first and only client that has ever let us create an idea from scratch and bring it to life exactly as we dreamed it should be (eh hem…except the name).

What resulted is still sinking in:

  • 47 applications were built in 30 days
  • OCTO has estimated the value of these submissions at $2,000,000+ including external contracting costs and internal procurement time
  • The cost to OCTO was $50,000 including prizes, marketing, management etc. representing an estimated 4,000% return on investment
  • OCTO has estimated that it would have taken them 1-2 years to complete the procurement process and receive delivery of applications like these under their legacy procurement method
  • iPhone apps, Facebook apps, web apps, mobile apps, maps mash-ups and a wiki were entered
  • We awarded all medals except the 5th Agency Bronze as we there was not a suitable entry

We’re getting together with the OCTO next week to reflect and think about how Apps for Democracy lives on from here. Vivek’s quote from our press conference with Mayor Adrian Fenty is a small clue:

“While the immediate goal of the Applications for Democracy contest is to develop innovative software to present District data, its long-term goals are broader,” said District CTO Vivek Kundra. “By making government data easy for everyone to access and use, the District hopes to foster citizen participation in government, drive private-sector technology innovation and growth, and build a new model for government-private sector collaboration that can help all governments address the technology challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Videos of the full press conference is here

Thank you to every developer/designer/blogger/twitterer who pushed this effort forward! More to come soon…and if you’re thirsty for more here’s a ton of link-love for all those that wrote about Apps for Democracy:

[Washington Post][Mashable][O'Reilly][Washington Post][Programmable Web][SocialTimes][Mashable][Mashable][Gartner][Gartner][GovTech][GovTech][EastCoastBlogging][Michael Guo][Boalt][Jessie X][Development Seed][DeleteBlog][DelaWonk][PointAbout][PrinceOfPetworth][GovTech][Development Seed][MuniRef][PublicHealthMashup][GovTech][Drupal.lu][GovTech][Sunlight Foundation][Gartner][PITF][GISuser][GSIuser][HighEarthOrbit][NetworkMusing][Development Seed][EventBrite][ConsciousImages][DataMob][PSM2.0][eGov.AU][BenteKalsnesBlog][LivingintheDistrict][iStrategyLabs][MoblGlobl][ClearSpring][OatmealStout][PersonalDemocracyForum][OpenHouseProject][ITP@NYU][TechPresident][Boalt][Boalt][ImPublished][VoiceInGov][MacsimumNews][DCPiazza][HighEarthOrbit][IxDA][FreeGovInfo][Mashable][SocialTimes][eCoComa][Guy Dickinson][iPhone Tricks][OnApps08: 1, 2, 3, 4]

24 Responses to “Apps for Democracy Yeilds 4,000% ROI in 30 Days for DC.Gov”

  1. Peter & iStrategyLabs crew, it was a pleasure to work on this project with you and show off what PointAbout can do. We hope it’s just the beginning of open government initiatives. – DROdio

  2. [...] for Democracy Review – 47 apps built in 30 days worth $2,000,000! – How a simple contest inspired an array of web applications that helps people connect to goverment [...]

  3. [...] District invested a modest sum in the program ($50k in total), and the return on that investment is estimated at around $2 million.  That’s a 4000% return on [...]

  4. Phenomenal. I’m going to be talking this up for a while. The OCTO deserves awards just for trying this. Their spirit of experimentation is needed throughout government.

  5. [...] brainstorming/introspection/reflection phase for what an Apps for Democracy v2.0 would look like. We created and launched the first one in a very short period of time and by no means got it exactly right in all areas. If we produce a second, what should we do [...]

  6. [...] News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Wednesday about the program. The results are  [...]

  7. [...] at a fraction of the cost and effort of using traditional methods. One estimate calculated the ROI for the contest at 4000%. I am hoping that there were people in Columbia watching that contest and taking notes. Columbia is [...]

  8. bob moon says:

    I am an architect who has lived in Columbia since 1971. We have an antiquated architectural review system for each of the 10 villages. I have completed a complete evaluation of the system and it does not serve the population equally.

    I am not an IT gifted person, however I definately understand the possibilities of integrating my work with your imagination.

    thank you for the idea.

  9. [...] Apps for Democracy Yeilds 4,000% ROI in 30 Days for DC.Gov Nov [...]

  10. [...] Aux Etats-Unis, le concours Apps for Democracy (des outils pour la démocratie) a permis la réalisation de 47 mashups en 30 jours. Le bureau des technologies du district de Washington DC, qui voulait inciter les gens à réutiliser son catalogue de données publiques, a calculé qu’en suivant la procédure habituelle, il aurait fallu attendre deux ans pour parvenir à un tel résultat. Signe que les mentalités y sont moins frileuses qu’ailleurs, le concours devait initialement s’appeler Hack the District… [...]

  11. [...] you’re a regular reader of this blog you’re aware of the Apps for Democracy contest we recently wrapped up for DC.gov that resulted in 47 applications developed, representing [...]

  12. [...] for Democracy Review – 47 apps built in 30 days worth $2,000,000! – How a simple contest inspired an array of web applications that helps people connect to goverment [...]

  13. [...] achieved by the District of Columbia – 47 Applications being built in 30 days, and an estimated 4,000% return on investment – it’ll be well worth the [...]

  14. [...] Vivek Kundra is an enthusiastic proponent of mashups and providing raw Government data to the public. As CTO for the District of Columbia he established the Apps for Democracy competition, which resulted in 47 Applications being built in 30 days, and an estimated 4,000% return on investment. [...]

  15. [...] to an iStrategy Labs blog post, the ROI was estimated at 4,000%: * OCTO has estimated the value of these submissions at [...]

  16. [...] Called “Apps for Democracy,” it prompted 47 applications in 30 days — worth an estimated $2 million and one to two years in internal procurement time and external contracting [...]

  17. [...] what other CTO’s have asked from some creative industries / labs. For instance, in Apps for Democracy (via istrategylabs), when asked (I am quoting them now); “how we could make their revolutionary open Data Catalog [...]

  18. [...] The Apps for Democracy competition awarded prizes and recognition of new applications that visualized this data in a manner useful for all. The competition was a huge success with teams building all sorts of applications, from tools to help you find a carpool or parking meter, to apps that sent information about the crime level in your neighborhood to your iPhone. The competition resulted in 47 Applications being built in 30 days, and an estimated 4,000% return on investment. [...]

  19. [...] publiczne. Peter Corbett z Firmy Strategy Labs, która wspó?pracowa?a z miastem przy projekcie, twierdzi, ?e razem z Kundr? uznali otwarty konkurs za potencjalnie du?o bardziej efektywny ni? typowe [...]

  20. [...] Appsfordemocracy – Was a competition to create new services based on mashups of public data from the District of Columbia’s Data Catalog. This resource provides a wealth of data relating to the operations of the District, including crime incidents, purchase orders and building permits. The competition resulted in 47 Applications being built in 30 days, and an estimated 4,000% return on investment. [...]

  21. [...] La reutilización de la información del sector público puede ofrecer muchos beneficios y promover la innovación, como muchos otros ya han escrito. Para ello hay que minimizar las barreras de entrada. Como ejemplo, se estima que el retorno de la inversión del conocido concurso Apps for Democracy del Ayuntamiento del Distrito de Columbia (EE.UU.) en el que se promovía la idea de reutilización gratuita de datos públicos ofrecidos en formatos abiertos, pudo llegar a tener un retorno de 40 a 50 veces superior a la inversión realizada. [...]

  22. [...] Vivek Kundra quantifies value in dollars [...]

  23. [...] Sponsor competitions like Apps for Democracy. Upon its completion, Apps for Democracy was hailed as a success (though there is room for disagreement). What is undeniable, however, was that the program has been [...]