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Apps for Communities Challenge Winners Announced

by: Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate

December 15, 2011

Last April, Knight Foundation and the Federal Communications Commission challenged developers and citizens from across the country to develop apps that deliver personalized, actionable information for the Apps for Communities Challenge. As a result, we received almost 70 entries from around the U.S., from California to Pennsylvania.

The challenge awards $100,000 in prizes to winning application developers and is intended to bring together providers of public data, developers, and traditionally underserved populations through a national contest.

Today, the FCC and the Knight Foundation are proud to announce the winners of the Apps for Communities Challenge, developers who answered the call to make local public information more usable and more actionable, making the benefits of broadband more tangible for all Americans. They’ve created apps that directly connect citizens to public information, like social services, job listings, fresh food locations, resources for the homeless and education training. Our winners inspired us with their creativity and commitment to helping communities in need across our country.

The wait is over, and the winners of the Apps for Communities Challenge include:

$30,000 — Grand Prize:

Yak.bus

Yak.bus by Ryan Resella, San Francisco, California.

YAKB.us is a real time bus notification system that uses voice and SMS. YAKB.us currently supports 3 different transit agencies: Arlington Transit in Arlington County in Virginia, Charlottesville Area Transit in Charlottesville, VA and Santa Clarita Transit in Santa Clarita, CA.

$20,000 — Second Prize:

Homeless SCC

Homeless-SCC by Curtis Chang, Consulting Within Reach, California

Homeless-SCC (Homeless - Santa Clara County) is a web based app that connects homeless individuals with services according to specific needs and eligibility. The app empowers local government, nonprofit agencies, and the general public to collaborate around accurate and actionable information. The app has been adopted by the largest county government in Northern California, which includes the city of San Jose, and the leading local agencies serving the homeless. It is currently in the rollout process. The app was designed by Consulting Within Reach and funded by a local church committed to serving the homeless.

$10,000 — Third Prize

Txt2wk

txt2wrk by Dave Chiu, Roger Ly, Lawson Kight, and Elise Ackerman, Oakland, California

Txt2wrk helps parolees, homeless, and other job seekers compete on a more level playing field by providing text-to-speech delivery of job postings on any mobile phone. With txt2wrk, job seekers are alerted to new job postings, can listen to job descriptions, and apply for jobs, 24 hours a day, all without a connection to the internet.

$1,000 X5 - RUNNERS UP:

PREPPED Kids by Damien Leri, Ian Bennett, and Stanton Wortham, Pennsylvania

PREPPED Kids is a web and mobile application designed to help low income families more easily access preschool and pediatric (hence PREPPED) services in their local communities. They chose these specific domains because together they support the healthy development of children and both have similar types of administrative hurdles for under-resourced families — particularly if parents have low literacy and/or low English proficiency. This web app is interactive and makes use of publicly available information from education, health and social service agencies.

PlacesKidsGo by Ningning Lin, Jerry Lin, Andrew Chen

PlacesKidsGo simplifies searches for appropriate children’s activities. Currently, the site draws on hyper-local San Jose data, including program information from nearby municipal recreation centers. After specifying an activity category (e.g. tutoring, soccer, arts) and a location, users can refine the list of choices by selecting the child’s age or the time of interest.

Access Together by John Schimmel, New York City

Access Together will enable people with disabilities, their family, friends, and neighbors to crowd-source a community’s accessibility information. Similar to a Foursquare check-in, a user will open Access Together on their mobile phone’s web browser, find their location, and supply answers to accessibility questions. For example “Is the entrance wheelchair accessible?”

PhillySNAP by Katey Metzroth, Mark Headd, Deng-Shun Chang, Tim Wisniewski

New York Cityand PennsylvaniaSMS-based PhillySNAP seeks to connect low-income, technologically isolated Philadelphia residents with fresh local food sources. How it works: PhillySNAP users text their address (house number and street) from a basic cell phone to a local phone number 267-293-9387 and users receive the following informative texts: 1. Address, hours, days, and distance to the closest Farmer’s Market accepting SNAP benefits, 2. Address and distance to the two nearest retail stores accepting SNAP benefits using the USDA API, 3. A randomized text about one of several programs to maximize SNAP benefits through affordable fresh local food programs.

Talk with Sam by Vikram Pant, Maryland

Talk with Sam provides citizens the ability to see legislative bills near them based on their location. It allows citizens to add comments around the bill and use social media to share the bill to their social network(s).  It provides a vote up / vote down ability and computes an approval rate based on votes. Through community development many more features can be added to improve end-user experience. Talk with Sam uses open data sets from Sunlight Labs Open States and the 2010 Census to provide a location-based lookup of bills (open, passed, failed ... in addition via subjects) in the citizen's area based on geolocation.

BONUS PRIZES:

$10,000 Bonus: Best Design and Visualization

Homeless-SCC (Homeless Santa Clara County) — see 2nd prize description above

$10,000 Bonus: Most Replicable Application

Access Together — see Runners Up description above

$5,000 Bonus: App with the Best Use of SMS

txt2wk — see 3rd prize description above

$5,000 Bonus: App that Best Impacts People with Limited Digital Proficiency

PREPPED Kids — see Runners Up description above

$5,000 Bonus: App that Best Impacts People with Limited English Literacy

Off to Market – by John Mertens

Off to Market is an SMS application helps people find fresh food in their area. Figures from the CDC show that about 1 in 3 Americans is obese. One of the underlying reasons for this is lack of access to fresh fruits & vegetables. Off to Market is combating this problem using the lowest common denominator of modern communication, the SMS text message. The rationale is simple: if we can provide a simple interface to help people locate the fresh food in their area, then maybe they will eat it.

High-speed internet isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity for full participation in our economy and democracy. As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made clear, broadband is an indispensible platform for economic growth and job creation, and for addressing major national challenges like education, health care, energy and public safety. But there’s a gap. Right now, nearly one-third of the country – 100 million Americans – don’t have high-speed Internet at home.

Consistent with Knight Foundation’s mission to foster informed and engaged communities and the FCC’s goal to encourage broadband adoption and deployment, the FCC and Knight Foundation co-sponsored this Challenge.  We hope that these ideas can be replicated throughout the country.

Today’s Apps for Communities Challenge winners demonstrate what having millions of more Americans digitally empowered can mean for the country: more customers for online businesses, more Americans using cost saving e-government services, and more Americans with the digital skills needed to find and land the jobs of today and tomorrow.

See all the eligible apps.

Remember to follow @communityapps on Twitter, or the Apps for Communities Facebook page for updates and news.

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