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September 04, 2009

DC Announces Winners in Second Applications For Democracy Contest 

Latest DC digital democracy initiative aims to simplify and enhance online city service requests.

Media Contact: Ayanna Smith, (202) 724-5178

Today District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Interim Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Willey announced the winning entries in the District’s second “Apps for Democracy” innovation contest, titled “Apps for Democracy, Community Edition.”

The contest, launched on May 4, 2009, invited residents and software developers to compete for cash prizes for ways to improve city service requests. The competition replicates the highly successful results of the first  Apps for Democracy contest last year, which invited the public to compete in developing applications to make District government data more accessible and useful for the public. The 2008 contest produced 47 innovative and useful applications in 30 days at a total cost of only $50,000.

The Apps for Democracy, Community Edition competition had two parts.

The first part of the contest asked citizens to offer ideas about how technology can improve government operations and the community.

The second part of the contest challenged developers to create applications that make it easier to submit online requests for city services such as vacant property inspections, tree removals, street repairs, non-emergency public safety assistance, and others. The applications were required to use open source programming. Developers could access the District’s over 270 public data feeds and could use the District’s new 311 API (Application Programming Interface), or “Open 311,” which allows users to build custom applications for submitting service requests. The District is the first city in the world to launch an Open 311.

The contest attracted nearly 230 insightful ideas and innovative applications. Entries were judged by an appointed jury representing the District government, the technology community, and the media. Participating judges were:

  • Kevin Donahue, DC CapStat Director
  • Janice Quintana, Director, DC Office of Unified Communications
  • Chris Willey, DC Interim CTO
  • Peter Corbett, CEO, iStrategyLabs
  • Brendan Sweeney, Producer, WAMU, Kojo Nnamdi Show

The judges chose the winning entries based on criteria including usefulness to citizens, usefulness to government, and originality.

And the winners are!

For the first part of the contest, the $1000 Social Citizen Award goes to Shireen Mitchell and Jill Foster for their multi-media presentation offering a technology solution for problems of homelessness, technology career access, and overtaxed public computer centers. Shireen and Jill recommended a Mobile Tech Education Labs (MTEL)--a car fleet delivering laptops, digital tools, computer/Web access, and instruction about online educational/professional resources to neighborhoods with the greatest computer access needs. The MTEL would be staffed by volunteers, equipped largely from donations, and headquartered in a converted DC abandoned building. For Shireen and Jill’s complete presentation, go here.

For the second part of the contest, the $10,000 prize winner is the team of Victor Shilo, Roman Zolin, and Andrey Andreev for their innovative app that creates iPhone access to the District’s 311 city service site, with Facebook tie-ins. Users can submit and view service requests by category, view service requests by location on an interactive map, provide details on their requests through an interactive Q&A feature, and even visit a “Hall of Fame” to see who has submitted the most requests.

An Honorable Mention goes to Zvi Band and Zach Goodwin for fixmycitydc, a web-based application that allows users to submit service requests by problem type, and check their status, via an interactive map. The app also offers the option of a phone call to the user when the problem has been resolved.

In addition to the prize, the winning team will receive a grant to support their application for the next nine months.

All of the applications will be released with open source licenses and can be used freely by governments and the public.

Demos of the winning apps and information on all apps submitted are available here.

“My administration is committed to improving city services and quality of life, and through this contest we’ve gotten help from the most talented citizens and developers,” said Mayor Fenty. “I’m delighted with the responses. With these innovative ideas and applications, we are putting government literally in the hands of the people.”

With two successful Apps for Democracy contest behind it, the District’s technology office is already planning for the next contest to help governments address the technology challenges of today and tomorrow.

“I thank all the creative citizens and technologists who answered our call for innovative ideas and applications,” said District Interim CTO Chris Willey. “With the help of these homegrown innovators, we’re engaging the community in government and building a digital democracy model for governments everywhere.”

To learn more about DC Government technology initiatives, visit