Apps for California Winners Feature Innnovative Mashups Of Open Government Data

Today, California announced the winners of its Apps for California challenge. As the summer comes to an end, there will indeed be an open government app for that in California. As I reported earlier this year at Radar, the app contest was targeted at catalyzing innovative uses of a refreshed, which included over 400 major data sources, including XLS, CSV and XML formats, and over 100 million records. The winners will be honored and given prizes at an awards gala hosted by Government Technology’s Best of the Web Competition on September 17, 2010.

Who are the Winners?

So who won and why? According to the Apps for California rules, each entry was judged according to the following criteria:

  1. Providing value to California’s residents and businesses;
  2. Demonstrating Innovation;
  3. Promoting Collaboration and Government Efficiency; and
  4. Ensuring Accessibility and Usability.

WIthout further ado, here are the five winners:

California Cage Fight
(info page) allows residents to compare their counties with other California counties and the state as a whole, including population growth, per capita income, unemployment, new houses and more.

California Environment Report: Cleanup Sites and Permitted Facilities
(info page) provide residents with an interactive map that includes heatmaps, a mobile version with geolocation, data feeds, and detail pages for every cleanup site and permitted dacility from the CA Department of Toxic Substances Control Datasets.

California View
(info page) is a simple mapping tool that displays the locations of California state parks, fishing holes and boating facilities.

(info page) provides mobile access to San Francisco zoning ordinance information. This app includes geolocation, interactive zoning maps, resources about code and a mechanism to ask a city planner questions.

(info page) provides a browser for California education, health and current legislation. The mashup allows users to “submit ideas on how the government should spend taxpayer money. Notably, it also has a constant stream of updates from schools, first responders and local politics. The site features Facebook integration, and a “Fix” button  that should be familiar to SeeClickFix users.

People’s Choice Award

Explore California” (info page) and the California Cage Fight mashups won the People’s Choice Awards. Explore California is similar to Data California, providing users with an interactive map and visualizations population, income, unemployment, new housing units, and other trends over time. Visitors can “compare and contrast the patterns of growth and decline in various categories and the relationships between them.”

What’s do Apps for California mean for Gov 2.0?

At review time, the winners seems like it might have the most potential to enable better outcomes for citizens to engage with government, given the tool. The zoning app could potentially be quite useful to builders or homeowners. And if you’re also an angler, the easy lookup of potential hotspots could be of interest, though old salts might not want the increased competition. A complete list of Apps for California finalists is available at

The contest was conducted by the Center for Digital Government in collaboration with the state of California, the city of Los Angeles, the county of Los Angeles, the city and county of San Francisco, Google, Microsoft and That collaboration featured some of the nation’s biggest tech companies partnering with public institutions to create mashups that of open public data that would provide more value to citizens.

Overall, the state saw over a dozen applications developed over the summer that might have taken it much longer to build internally, and at substantially great cost. Beyond stimulating that activity, however, the success or failure of the contest will likely be judged not upon the prices awarded or the number of apps built but rather whether these applications make the lives of citizens easier or provide more frictionless access to information. That’s a judgement that will only be rendered with time.

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


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