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What’s a sustainable model for developers to make green apps?

2011 December 15

Our objective for green apps is to foster the developer community to create more applications so people can make sound environmental decisions. To achieve that objective, we’re looking for ways to encourage the sustainable development and use of green apps and we’d like to hear your ideas for what makes sense. EPA started with our large-scale challenge, EPA’s Apps for the Environment, that provided recognition to developers and yielded 38 apps. To help us build on the success of that effort, we’re interested in your ideas about sustainable models that support developers so they can make green apps. We think it makes sense to partner with organizations that have expertise in supporting developers and promoting apps. So thanks for sharing your reactions to some of the ideas presented below as well as any other ideas you believe EPA should consider. 

In a recent conversation, Troy Abel, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Western Washington University (and advisor to Bob Sabie, who won Best Student App, Runner Up in the EPA Apps for the Environment Challenge with his app Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping) suggested a couple of ways to encourage and support developers to make green apps:

EPA is considering some other ideas such as:

  • EPA funding or co-funding a green apps partnerships similar to ChemicalRight2Know, a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) collaborative forum that the Environmental Council of the States developed through a cooperative agreement with EPA.
  • EPA could connect users and developers without formal partnerships. For example, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other parties could describe their requirements for environmental apps and post them online. The agency could encourage developers to create the apps. Then the NGOs or other parties could sponsor, fund, and host the apps. This effort could be performed in a public online space and several parties could create an app together.

Thanks for posting your reactions to these ideas and sharing ideas of your own.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011

    For some years now, I’ve been the “client side” earth data app enthusiast, trying to help build authoring tools for organizations to create custom, data-rich apps for classrooms, resource managers, and decision makers. This adventure did not go well in the face of all the funding and attention to web services. Then the iPad happened. Suddenly, apps are back. Apps can take advantage of web services, but then add value through their ability to offer a better user experience.
    The EPA’s Apps for the Environment is a great first step to open up app development. The next steps are emerging. As Ethan notes here, there are new ways to leverage social networking, microfunding, and social media to connect data providers, software developers, and thought leaders in education and the environmental NGO world. I know the DigitalOcean team is working to add microfunding to their ocean science platform, and I’ve seen some great proposals looking to build better science software authoring standards. This is a perfect time to explore these opportunities.

  2. December 16, 2011

    Ethan, these are all great points. I especially like the focus on funding, which is a crucial–and mostly lacking–element of this movement. Identifying projects, selecting winners, and distributing funds are obviously difficult tasks, but there are models: we should look to the venture capital community for advice and even leadership. There are any number of funds focusing on “clean tech,” but not much is out there for pure green software plays. Perhaps this is lack of deal flow, or unclear monetization strategies, or something else — but these are all challenges that VCs have learned over the years to address.

    A couple of plugs for folks reading this:

    * At Brighter Planet we’re making our own contribution to the funding challenge in the form of our Developer Fellowship program. Check it out:

    * Beyond funding, another critical part of the green apps ecosystem is data, and there is certainly room for improvement there that will accelerate developers’ work. We just released a whitepaper with some analysis and recommendations:

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