By Jeff Tumarkin
Almost six months ago I was asked to help manage the Apps for the Environment Challenge. I really had no idea what to expect as this was uncharted territory for EPA. We researched other government challenges and decided the only way we could possibly succeed without being able to offer prize money was to work closely with the developer and mobile user communities; to ask them what they need from us in order to develop Green Apps.
Now, after participating with hundreds of developers, students, open data specialists and government innovators at our “Building Innovation Through Partnerships” forum Tuesday, Nov. 8th, I can fully appreciate the contributions and collaborations from around the country that has created what will hopefully be a lasting foundation for an environmental data and developer community!
The forum included an afternoon of discussions, breakout sessions and recognition for the winners of the Apps for the Environment Challenge. It was amazing to see a room full of such diverse groups, from the young teenagers whose team was awarded Best Student App, to CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and our own Chief Information Officer Malcolm Jackson, all together to celebrate one vision of putting environmental data into the hands of the public.
The Apps for the Environment Challenge resulted in over 100 ideas from users as to what environmental mobile applications they would like to see, and 38 finished apps. More than 2000 votes were cast for the Popular Choice Award, and the challenge itself became one of the most popular ever hosted on Challenge.gov.
During the Business, Tech and User Perspectives panel discussion, a key point mentioned was that if the federal government acts as a data wholesaler and not retailer, releasing bulk data in any computer readable format, this will lead to success with the developer community
At the end of the day, both Lisa Schlosser, Federal Deputy CIO, and EPA CIO Malcolm Jackson both reiterated that EPA will be looking for other means and opportunities for community building with the green apps community, and by working closely together we can accomplish great things through this continued engagement.
Personally, this has been the most exciting initiative that I have worked on in my 30+ years of working at EPA. Our Team did an amazing job, and it was truly and honor and privilege to work with such a creative and dedicated group of staff and managers. I am very excited about the future as we continue to work closely with developers and users. I am confident that if we continue to work together individuals and communities will benefit by having access to the information they need to make better decisions about their health and the environment.
About the author: Jeff Tumarkin, the communications lead for EPA’s Office of Information Analysis and Access, lives outside Washington, DC in suburban Maryland. When not working at EPA Jeff spends his free time cycling, kayaking, fishing and promoting environmental protection in his own community.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.