Gonzalo E. Mon is a partner in the Advertising Law practice at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and his co-author, John J. Heitmann, is a partner in the firm’s Telecommunications group. Read more on Kelley Drye’s advertising blog, Ad Law Access, or keep up with the group on Facebook or Twitter.

If you work with mobile apps, you may already know that privacy is a hot issue. Regulators are pushing companies to improve their privacy practices, Congress is contemplating new laws, and class action lawyers are suing companies that don’t clearly disclose their practices. In the past few weeks, this focus on privacy intensified as the FTC, the California Attorney General, and even the White House weighed in with new announcements.

Two things are clear from this recent burst of activity. First, regulators are putting pressure on everyone in the mobile app ecosystem to improve their practices, so you can’t just assume that it’s your partner’s responsibility to comply. And with the number of regulators focusing on these issues, it’s going to be a lot harder for companies to hide. No matter what role you play in the mobile app ecosystem, you should pay attention to these developments. Here’s what you need to know.


Increased Focus on App Privacy


In February, the FTC issued a report about mobile apps directed to children. Although these apps can collect a broad range of information, the FTC noted that neither the app stores nor app developers provide enough information for parents to determine what data is collected from their children or how it is used or shared. In some cases, this could be a violation of federal law. The FTC wants all members of the kids app ecosystem to play an active role in making appropriate disclosures to parents.

Shortly after the FTC issued its report, the California Attorney General announced an agreement with the leading app stores in which the stores agreed to add a field in the app submission process for developers to post their privacy notices or a link to a privacy policy. The agreement is intended to ensure that consumers have an opportunity to access pertinent privacy information before they download an app. Moreover, the app stores have committed to provide a mechanism for consumers to report apps that don’t comply with laws or the app store’s terms of service.

And the White House also stepped into the debate by announcing a data privacy framework that establishes a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” Although the framework speaks broadly about privacy issues, several sections discuss issues that are particularly relevant to the mobile space. For example, the White House encourages app developers to collect only as much personal data as they need and to tailor their privacy disclosures to mobile screens.


5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Regulators


Given the quickly changing legal landscape — and the growing number of government institutions that want to play a role in that landscape — it can be difficult for companies in the mobile app space to understand what is required. The following five tips address concerns that all of these institutions appear to share. Accordingly, they should form the starting point for your legal analysis when you develop and launch an app.

1. Don’t collect more than you need.

Because data can function as the currency of the digital age, there is often a tendency to collect as much data as possible. Companies think that even if they don’t have an immediate use for the data now, they might find a use (or a buyer) for it later on. Although this may be true, resist the temptation to collect more data than you need for your app to work. This is a core principle of the FTC’s “privacy by design” framework, as well as the new White House framework.

2. Disclose your privacy practices.

You need to make sure that users easily have the ability to learn what information you are collecting from them and how you are using it before they download your app. (The changes the app stores are making as a result of their agreement with the California AG will make this easier.) Make sure that your privacy notices are easy to read and tailored to the mobile setting. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider the Mobile Marketing Association’s Privacy Policy Guidelines for Mobile Apps.

3. Be careful with children.

If you collect personal information from children under 13, you need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Among other things, COPPA generally requires companies to obtain verifiable consent from parents before they collect personal information from their children. The FTC has challenged app developers for violating COPPA, and the agency’s latest report suggests that the FTC expects all members of the kids app ecosystem to play a role in complying.

4. Consider when to get consent.

Although various bills pending in Congress would require companies to get consent before collecting certain types of information, outside of COPPA, getting consent is not a uniformly applicable legal requirement yet. Nevertheless, there are some types of information (such as location-based data) for which getting consent may be a good idea. Moreover, it may be advisable to get consent at the point of collection when sensitive personal data is in play. Work with your legal counsel to determine what makes sense in your context.

5. Protect the information you collect.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to read stories about major companies who experience data breaches. Data breaches can be costly to address and they may result in lasting damage to your brand. If you are collecting information from consumers, you need to ensure you have physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards to protect that information. For example, certain data should be encrypted and you should limit access to it. Moreover, you should properly dispose of data when you no longer need it.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, akinbostanci

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Every time he drinks a cup of coffee, Dan Meyer makes a note on his phone. He does the same every time he opens a beer, turns on his TV or travels away from home. At the end of each month, he spends about three hours transferring these meticulously gathered notes into an excel spreadsheet.

Meyer isn’t obsessive compulsive, he just likes data. Like an increasing number of data geeks, he uses his personal life as a project — compiling small events into a sometimes elaborate, graphic annual report each January.

“It just speaks to the natural tendency to introspect, look inward,” Meyer says about his habit. “I do it for the same reason people journal or blog about their lives. I don’t see it different than that fundamentally.”

Dan Meyer’s 2009 personal annual report includes the number of text messages he sent, hours of TV he watched and his frequency away from home.

Not everyone who tallies his daily minutiae does it for the same reason, but most cite the same inspiration. Designer Nicholas Felton seems to have started the trend with his first personal annual report in 2005. By 2010, The New York Times had caught wind of the project. By 2011, Facebook was impressed, too. The company hired Felton to help design its new Timeline feature.

In the meantime, Felton actively helped launch imitations of his report.

“I can imagine how counting fireflies over the summer would make a poetic record of the way the summer was spent for an individual,” he writes on his blog, “but if 100 or 1,000 people are doing the same thing, does it start to tell an aggregate story that speaks more about global warming or habitat loss?”

“I believe that the Annual Reports have encouraged a desire among readers to discover similar things about themselves.”

To make it easier for others to track their data, he and co-creator Ryan Case launched an online tool called Daytum. The tool helps users collect their daily data and turn it into an infographic. People have used it to quantify their dogs’ lives, their baseball stadium attendence and even, in at least one case, the life of a couch.

“I believe that the Annual Reports have encouraged a desire among readers to discover similar things about themselves,” writes Felton, who declined to comment for this article.

In some ways, tracking your own life with such detail and then publishing it seems like an archetype of self-important broadcasting. But its practitioners agree with Felton that it is in fact an act of introspection.

“It’s just a fun way to learn more about myself through data,” says Jehiah Czebotar, who has been completing elaborate interactive annual reports since 2008.

Jehiah Czebotar sets up his computer to automatically photograph him each day.

A software engineer at Bit.ly, Czebotar incorporates data from Google, Mint and Foursquare into his personal record-keeping. Last year, he took a photo of every laundry receipt he received and set his computer at work to automatically photograph him at his desk throughout the day. The year before, he recorded every keystroke he made.

“After an entire year of pressing on keys all day long and all night long, I could have stored it all on one floppy disk,” he says. “My entire year of programming could fit on one floppy disk.”

Now there’s a way to put your work into perspective.

“I do it for the same reason people journal or blog about their lives. I don’t see it different than that fundamentally.”

Czebotar says he sometimes uses the quantified view of his life to start conversations, and turns the reports into programming challenges. Meyer, on the other hand, considers the benefits of his documentation to be solely intrinsic.

The teacher turned educational consultant (he has used personal data reports to teach statistics) has been keeping track of seemingly trivial details for six years. Sometimes he makes elaborate videos or infographics depicting the data. But several years, he has published only one graph from his mound of information.

Meyer’s 2010 annual report contains just one graph

In 2008, a graph titled “honeymoon” depicts his calls, SMS and tweets screeching to a halt at the end of July.

In 2010, another is titled “Number of Dads: 100% decline FY09 to FY10.”

In 2011, a third shows a huge increase in miles flown through the air since 2006.

“It really is just like journaling,” he says. “In the same sense that you wouldn’t go around talking about whatever you journaled. It’s inward focused, and occasionally I’ll have people take a look at it. I’ll post my annual report, and that’s kind of fun.”

“But for the most part, it’s just for me.”

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The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to transform the way they develop applications that serve wide and diverse audiences. They are currently running Apps for the Environment, an app development challenge — with a deadline of September 16 — that is meant to encourage the public to come up with new ways of leveraging EPA data.

“The premise for a long, long time has been that the government knows what is best for folks,” says Robin Gonzalez, acting director of the Office of Information Analysis and Access within the Office of Environmental Information. “We collect data from the people we regularly work with — industry — and others and try to put it into digestible formats which usually come out as sets of reports or raw data sets. The EPA has a number of large databases, such as Envirofacts, and is looking forward to “seeing what kind of apps students and developers come up with using our data.”


The Challenge


Gonzalez says this challenge presents a different way for a government agency to operate. It lets the market dictate how years of valuable EPA data can be put to good use.

The Apps for the Environment challenge welcomes individuals, independent programmers and corporate programmers to participate in developing apps for consumers, business-to-business and even government-to-business scenarios (or vice versa). The three categories for entries are Professional, Student and People’s Choice, with one winner to be chosen in each category.

The apps submitted must address one of the Seven Priorities from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, such as taking action on climate change or building strong state and tribal partnerships. The apps should also be useful to individuals or the community at large. Developers can get ideas from webinars available on the site, which consist of audio interviews, slideshows and transcripts.

Even non-programmers can contribute to the challenge by submitting ideas for potential apps. The EPA’s challenge currently has 90 app ideas on their site, including:

  • An app that would identify nearby recycling centers for disposing household hazardous waste
  • An app that combines air toxics data from the EPA’s National Air Toxic Assessment (NATA) database with environmental public health data from the Centers for Disease Control and National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program to identify areas with high emissions that also have high incidences of disease
  • An app that identifies all available beach advisories and/or closings near a user’s current location
  • An app that allows users to compare the environmental impact of two products, such as grocery and household products

Developers are encouraged to either submit apps based on their own ideas or peruse dozens of app ideas from others. There is even a Hack-a-thon taking place on Labor Day weekend and hosted by American University that aims to bring together developers and teams from universities throughout the area, professional coders, as well as EPA data specialists. The goal will be to develop apps for the competition.


App Contests Are Going Mainstream


While app challenges aren’t new (take NYC Big Apps, the Civic Apps Challenge in Portland, Oregon and even a DC apps challenge called Apps for Democracy), what makes the EPA Apps for the Environment challenge different is that it is national in scope. The EPA challenge also encourages the use of not just EPA data sets but data from other agencies as well.

The EPA announced Apps for the Environment in June 2011 on the heels of another national app competition supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called myHealthyPeople Challenge — a part of the Health 2.0 Developers Challenge for rapid app development. The goal of the HHS apps challenge was to develop a custom Healthy People 2020 app for professionals, advocates, funders and decision makers who are using the Healthy People initiative to improve the well-being of people across the country. Challenge winners were invited to meet with HHS leadership to demo their apps and to strategize additional development opportunities. The Healthy Communities Institute won the first place prize of $2,500 for its online dashboard that checks the status of all the HealthyPeople 2020 goals in Sonoma County to assess and improve local community health.


The Reward


On November 8, the EPA will present awards to the Apps for the Environment challenge winners in a high-profile event in Northern Virginia. At the same event, the Department of Energy (DOE) will announce details about their upcoming apps challenge. As federal agencies pass the apps challenge baton, they can learn from their predecessors and their own experiences in accelerating the development cycle through crowdsourcing. Additional federal agency apps challenges can be found on Challenge.gov.

Gonzalez acknowledges that apps challenges are a form of crowdsourcing for app development, and while their current app challenge doesn’t include a monetary award, he says the EPA is exploring several models of payment for future app development initiatives.

“We’re looking to streamline the app development process, looking at this as a model that will inform that process going forward,” says Gonzalez. “We don’t expect to get everything for free, obviously, but at the same time we want to do this in a more innovative and more competitive way than exists today.”

Gonzalez says he has a team in place examining how their initial apps challenge effort can lead to future challenges and future app development work at the EPA. The goal is to look for different ways than the traditional model of determining the app they want produced, writing up specs, putting out an RFP, letting vendors bid on it and then picking a winner who then builds the app. By getting the public involved, new opportunities may arise that wouldn’t have come out of the usual RFP process.

Once the winning apps are chosen, the EPA will not own any of the apps. As long as the information retrieved from the EPA’s data sets is not misused in any way, the completed apps are property of the respective developers, who can then market and sell the apps themselves. The challenge winners will be invited to present their apps at the November awards ceremony to an audience that will include representatives from the EPA and other federal agencies, the media and even venture capitalists.

And more apps challenges are on the horizon for the EPA.

“What we currently develop is what we think is best for the public. Our thinking is changing,” says Gonzalez. “We believe that there’s a whole lot of innovative ways to approach development of our applications.”

Apps challenges are the EPA’s move in a more open and inclusive direction.


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The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

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Whether you built a personal site from the ground up or oversee digital strategy for a huge corporation, many of us are managing a web presence these days.

There are millions of websites out there, and tracking how people are getting to your site and what’s performing well is a must for being competitive in the online market.

Google Analytics makes it easy for anyone managing a site to track and analyze this data. It’s a powerful, free tool that can answer a variety of questions for a wide range of users. Wondering which keywords resonate with visitors? Need insight on what design elements might be turning people away?

Here’s how you can start answering the website questions that have been keeping you awake at night.


Adding the Code


Once you set up your Google Analytics account, you’ll need to implement the code on your website.

Set up a profile for the site you’d like to track and the step-by-step process will generate a unique script that you can add. If you’re using a content management system or blogging platform like WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr, you only need to add the code once to your template or theme. The theme will propagate the code in every post and page you create.

If your site is custom-built, you’ll either need to implement the code on each page manually, or speak to your web developer about how the site generates content.

Copy the JavaScript code from Analytics and paste it just above the </head> tag in your page or template. Adding this code will not affect the look of your site.


What You Can Measure


After you connect your site to Google Analytics, hit “View Report” on the initial screen. This will bring you to the main dashboard. In the left column, you’ll see the various types of data Google Analytics provides:

  • Visitors: This shows many things about the people coming to your site, including where they’re located geographically, what language they speak, how often they visit your site and what computers and browsers they use to get there.
  • Traffic Sources: Here you’ll find how people got to your site. You can track which sites link to your page or keywords people search to find you.
  • Content: This tab gives you insight into specific pages on your site. It can help answer questions about how people enter and exit your pages, as well as which ones are most popular.
  • Goals: If you’re aiming for established objectives, reports in the Goals tab will be helpful to you. Here you’ll find data about desired actions from users, including downloads, registrations and purchases.
  • Ecommerce: You’ll only need this tab if you’re selling items on your site as it houses all merchandise, transaction and revenue activity information.

These tabs contain subreports that provide insights about specific aspects of your site, including top content and visitor loyalty.

The information you choose to track depends on what curiosities you want to quell. Being in touch with keyword searches can help a site with text-heavy content to boost search rankings, while knowing which products convert best can inspire ecommerce sites to increase visibility of these items.

With Google Analytics, figuring out what you measure is the tough part. It’s how you measure that’s simple.


Setting Up the Dashboard


On the main dashboard, you’ll see a summary of your site’s data. You can customize the dashboard to show whichever reports you decide you want to see upfront. Just click on the type of report you want to see from the left column and hit “Add to Dashboard.” You can then position reports on the dashboard by dragging and dropping, or deleting ones you don’t want.

You can delve deeper into a data set by clicking “View Report” underneath the report graphic on your dashboard. This brings you to the full report on that topic.


Adjusting the Time Range


Be sure to adjust the date range in the upper right-hand corner before analyzing information from your reports. It defaults to a month-long range, ending the day prior to the day you’re viewing the report. (For example, on May 18, you’d see reports spanning April 17 to May 17.) Click on the date range box and a calendar will pop up. You can adjust it to track information quarterly, weekly, daily, or whatever timeframe works best for you.

If you want to compare date ranges, hit “Comparison” underneath the “Date Range” field. This will bring up a second calendar for you to adjust based on what time periods you want to consider, such as weekend to weekend or the first Tuesday of the month vs. the last Tuesday of the month.


Data Tables and Visualizations


Many of the reports in Google Analytics, such as pageviews and conversion rates, contain linear graphs that present data for the topic and date range you’ve selected. When mousing over the dots on the line, you’ll see measurements for that day, week or hour.

You can change the metric you want to visualize by clicking the tab above the graph on the left. Here you’ll also have the option to compare two metrics against each other. When you’re not com
paring date ranges, you can compare against the site average. This is particularly helpful if you’ve laid out goals, as you can compare site activity to conversion goals. When comparing, a second line (gray) will appear for the variable over the graph with the original metric line (blue), making it easy to see how you’re stacking up.

Beneath the graph, you’ll see more data laid out with summaries and scorecards prominently displaying important overall metrics, such as pages per visit and time on site. Most reports have three different tabs in the top left above the scorecards: Site Usage, Goal Conversion and Ecommerce.

More granular measurements of these data sets can be found in a table below. You can visualize the table in a pie chart or a bar graph by clicking the icons just above and to the right of the scorecards. Table information can be sorted in ascending or descending order by clicking on the column heading you want to reorganize. To increase or decrease the number of results displayed, click the “Show Rows” drop down menu at the bottom right of the report. The default is 10 and you can show up to 500 results per page.

You can also refine data with the “Find Source” box at the bottom left of the report. Enter keywords relevant to your search such as “source” or “keyword” and select “containing” or “excluding” to reveal more specific information.

If you’re unsure of what a specific measurement means, click the question mark next to it and an explanation bubble will pop up.


Sharing Reports


You’ll find an email button at the top of all reports, just beneath the title. You can send the email immediately, schedule a recurring report email or add the report to an existing pre-scheduled email. If you’re presenting the report, you can export it as a PDF (recommended), XML, CSV or TSV file.


Going for It


Now that we’ve broken down the basics, it’s your turn to go for it. Will you try your hand at Google Analytics? Which business questions might it help you answer? Let us know in the comments.


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This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Steve Bratt is the CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web. The mission of the organization is to empower people through transformative programs that leverage the web as a medium for positive change.

In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama pledged support for open government initiatives, including the creation of websites that provide access to valuable but not sensitive government data. This initiative promoted transparency, accountability, collaboration and citizen participation by putting government data online. Data.gov was launched in May 2009 as a result, and this incredible site provides nearly 300,000 data sets and almost 1,000 applications developed by government and private enterprise. Government has embraced the web as a platform to provide data to the public and to other entities inside and outside the government sector. Open Government Data (OGD), or government data that can be accessed online and used by others, is a pioneer idea that empowers people and enhances government accountability.

We recently learned that Data.gov and similar websites will receive significantly decreased funding from the U.S. government. Without continued financial support, some government websites will go dark. That’s unfortunate, considering the two years of work spent to create and launch them. The latest offering from the House Appropriations Committee included only $8 million for the Office of Management and Budget’s open government program, which funds the development and maintenance of sites such as data.gov. This offering is significantly less than the requested $35 million.

If we fail to fund open government projects, not only does the United States lose, but so does the rest of the world, which looks to the United States and United Kingdom as the leaders in modern government transparency initiatives. To date, we have witnessed an impressive adoption of open government initiatives globally. Some 15 nations plan to model their open government platforms using data.gov as an example.

Recently, OGD feasibility assessments conducted by my organization in Chile and Ghana have revealed the need and desire to establish open government initiatives in those countries. Improving government transparency and accountability in these markets enhances public confidence in systems of government and attracts foreign investment in local businesses. In addition, innovative commercial opportunities are made possible based on the availability typically-hidden government data. And for all who are interested in cost-effective governance (who isn’t?), OGD initiatives have produced savings on U.S. government expenditures. According to U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, the IT dashboard provides an estimated $3 billion in savings per year to the American taxpayer. Such projects also help government agencies identify water quality changes, bad roads and areas with high crime rates.

Let’s not lose the significant benefit of open government data work after so much effort, time and money has gone into building these resources that are already proving to more than pay for themselves. I urge you to contact your local representatives, and ask them to fully fund U.S. open government initiatives or sign the Sunlight Foundation’s “Save the Data” petition that is urging congressional representatives protect funding for open government projects.


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Major city governments across North America are looking for ways to share civic data — which normally resides behind secure firewalls — with private developers who can leverage it to serve city residents via web and mobile apps. Cities can spend on average between $20,000 and $50,000 — even as much as $100,000 — to cover the costs of opening data, but that’s a small price to pay when you consider how much is needed to develop a custom application that might not be nearly as useful.

Here are a few examples of initiatives that are striving to make city governments more efficient and transparent through open data.


1. Apps4Ottawa – Ottawa, Quebec


Careful to adhere to security and privacy regulations for their open data program, the City of Ottawa started sharing data in several areas: geo-spatial (roadways, parks, runways, rivers, and ward boundaries); recreation facilities; event planning; civic elections data; and transit, including schedules. Other data the city is pursuing includes tree inventory, collections schedules for garbage, recycling and compost, and bike and foot paths.

Ottawa aligned their first open data contest, Apps4Ottawa, with the school year (September 2010 to January 2011 ) to involve colleges and universities as well as residents and local industry. Categories for the contest included “Having Fun in Ottawa,” “Getting Around,” “Green Environment/Sustainability,” “Community Building,” and “Economic Development.” The winner is scheduled to be announced later this evening.

Guy Michaud, chief information officer for the City of Ottawa, said their open data efforts have already spurred economic development and is meant to be good for local entrepreneurs. The city receives no revenue through the apps, and the developers can sell what they create. In turn, Ottawa residents get improved services from applications that are created, with better access to city data and more user-friendly formats and platforms.


2. CivicApps.org – Portland, Oregon


After tracking Vivek Kundra’s efforts at the federal level with data.gov, Portland, Oregon launched CivicApps.org, a project initiated out of the mayor’s office to bring a more localized approach to the open data movement. Skip Newberry, economic policy advisor to the mayor, say that the project’s main objective is to improve connections and the flow of information between local government and its constituents, as well as between city bureaus. To call attention to the release of public data, they also launched an app design contest, highlighting the tech talent in Portland’s software community.

According to Rick Nixon, program manager for the Bureau of Technology’s Open Data Initiative for the city of Portland, CivicApps.org took a more regional approach to cover the multiple layers of local government: County, Metro, TriMet, and the City of Portland, all of which collect and maintain various kinds of public data. Data sets released include regional crime, transit, infrastructure (i.e. public works), and economic development programs. Additional projects, such as the PDX API, have been launched in order to make the raw data from CivicApps more useful to developers.

In addition to developer-specific apps, a number of transit related apps — bike, train, bus, mixed modes — were also developed. A very popular and established transit app, PDXBus, was re-released as open source under the rules of the CivicApps contest. Other popular apps helped provide residents greater awareness of their surroundings such as where to find heritage trees, where to find urban edibles, and where to locate each other during disaster relief efforts.


3. CityWide Data Warehouse – Washington, DC


For years, the District of Columbia provided public access to city operational data via the Internet. In keeping with the mayor’s promise to be transparent, the program CityWide Data Warehouse was launched, and provides citizens with access to over 450 datasets from multiple agencies. The first two datasets released were service requests from the mayor’s call center, including trash pickup, pot hole repair, street light repair, snow removal, parking meter issues and crime data.

According to David Stirgel, program manager for Citywide Data Warehouse, the project looks for data that be of interest to the widest possible audience and which will remain reusable over time. Some of the applications that have come out of the program include Track DC, which tracks the performance of individual District agencies, and summary reports that provide public access to city operational data. Some of the applications built by companies and individuals using the data include Crime Reports and Every Block.

In 2008, the District Mayor’s office, the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and digital agency iStrategyLabs launched Apps for Democracy, an open code app development contest tapping into District data that cost $50,000 and generated 47 apps. The contest was repeated in 2009. Over 200 ideas and applications were submitted, and the winner was an iPhone and Facebook app called Social DC 311. It could be used to submit service requests, such as reporting potholes and trash problems. An honorable mention was given to FixMyCityDC. Unfortunately, neither app is maintained today.


4. NYC Data Mine – New York, NY


NYC BigApps 2.0 is part of an initiative to improve the accessibility, transparency, and accountability of city government. According to Brandon Kessler, CEO of ChallengePost, the company and technology powering the NYC BigApps 2.0 Software Challenge, Mayor Bloomberg challenged software developers to use city data from the NYC.gov Data Mine to create apps to improve NYC, offering a $20,000 in cash awards to the winners.

The second annual challenge closed its call for submissions at the end of January 2011 and opened the vote to the public. Voting ends on March 9. Requirements included that the software applications be original and solely owned by the entrants, that they use at least one of the datasets from the NYC.gov Data Mine, and be free to the public throughout the competition and for at least one year after the challenge. The panel of judges reads like a “who’s who” of New York tech luminaries, and includes Esther Dyson of EDVenture, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, Jack Dorsey of Square and Twitter, and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital. One of the first year’s winning apps was WayFinder, an augmented reality Android app which allows users to point their phone in a direction and see which subways and Path trains are in front of them.


5. DataSF – San Francisco, California


Like other city governments, San Francisco’s goal for their DataSF program was to improve transparency and community engagement as well as accountability. Ron Vinson, director of media for the city’s Department of Technology also stated potential for innovation in how residents interact with government and their community. With an emphasis on adhering to privacy and security policies, the city can stimulate the creation of useful civic tools at no cost to the government.

Before launching, they reached out to Washington, DC to identify the most popular datasets, and learned that 20% of the datasets represented over 80% of the downloads. With this information, they went out first with crime, 311, and GIS data. They also allowed the public to request data through a submissions mechanism on the website where others could vote on their suggestions. This input is now required reading for the city administrator thanks to an executive directive and open data legislation.

Since launching in August 2009, DataSF has accumulated over 60 applications in its showcase. According to Vinson, the city stays engaged with their tech community by participating in local unconferences and meetups.


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