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][OnApps081234]