FCC doles out $100K to open source community apps challenge winners

Open Source apps make local information more available to citizens who need it

The $100,000 challenge: Develop useful, localized open source apps that make local public information more personalized and usable.

With that idea as the backdrop the Federal Communications Commission and the Knight Foundation today awarded Code for America developer Ryan Resella the $30,000 Apps for Communities Challenge grand prize.  Resella won for his YAKB.us app, a real time bus notification system for bus riders without a smartphone. Rasella developed an app that uses voice and SMS to deliver arrival times in English and Spanish.

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Second prize of $20,000 went to consultant Curtis Chang who's Homeless: Santa Clara County app helps homeless people and families with services according to their specific needs and eligibility. The app developer also won an additional $10,00 for Best Design and Visualization.  The app has been adopted by the largest county government in Northern California, the city of San Jose, and the local agencies serving the homeless. 

For third prize, a $10,000 award went to a team of developers for their Txt2wrk app which is designed to help parolees, the homeless and other job seekers compete on a more level playing field by letting them apply for jobs online through a text-to-speech delivery of job postings on any mobile phone. Job seekers are alerted to new job postings, can listen to job descriptions, and apply for jobs - all without a connection to the Internet.

The team known as Access Together won $10,000 as the Most Replicable App.  Access Together will let people with disabilities, their family, friends, and neighbors crowd-source a community's accessibility information. Similar to a Foursquare check-in, a user will open Access Together on their mobile phone's web browser, find their location, and supply answers to accessibility questions. For example "Is the entrance wheelchair accessible?".

YAKB.us, Homeless-SCC, and Txt2wrk are just three of the 75 apps created by citizen developers across the country to connect residents to critical local information, such as social services, job listings, fresh food locations, and education training. Many of the apps can be used on any phone that can send text messages. Not only will all of the apps be available on the winners' websites, but the source codes are free and available for anyone to download and use, according to as post on the White House Science and Technology blog.

Other app winners included:

SMS-based PhillySNAP, which is designed to connect low-income, technologically isolated Philadelphia residents with fresh local food sources.  PhillySNAP users text their address (house number and street) from a basic cell phone to a local phone number 267-293-9387 and users receive informative texts.

Talk with Sam: A goal of the TWS app is to inform citizens of bills, then collect the voices of the many and provide the information to representatives who eventually vote on those bills.  TWS has a goal to be a communication channel between citizens and governments.  It is about increasing citizen attention while coordinating constituents together in the decision-making process with our representatives.

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