Government Invites Public to Solve Challenges
By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2010 The federal government has a lot of problems to solve, and a new website it launched this week will give average citizens a forum to discuss and potentially solve those problems while vying for rewards for the best solutions.
Bev Godwin, director of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement; Brandon Kessler, founder and CEO of ChallengePost; and Tami Griffith, science and technology manager for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Simulation and Training Technology Center, discussed the new site -- Challenge.gov -- during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable yesterday.
Godwin oversees the site for the government. Kessler’s company designs and builds “challenge” sites for different clients.
Challenge.gov is an extension of President Barack Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation, which opens government solutions to the general public.
“Challenges and prizes can really change the way government in our country works, as it allows the government to bring new players to the table, to look at new ways to solve problems that can lead to new discoveries or new industries,” Godwin said. “It also provides the government a way to only pay for results. It also allows government a way to set forth a goal and let others decide how best to reach that goal.”
Entrepreneurs, leading innovators and citizen solvers can compete for prizes on Challenge.gov by providing solutions to tough problems.
“The whole concept behind the platform is that if you have a centralized network around challenges, more people will interact with multiple challenges,” Kessler said. “We see, in fact, that people who engage in one challenge tend to engage in multiple challenges, because they’re connected to a network.”
The site works pretty simply – an agency or office can post a “challenge” to which people can provide a “solution.” It also allows participants to blog, interact on discussion boards, and easily share items via different social media.
Griffith’s Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, which asks the public to submit ideas for innovative and interactive training and analysis solutions in virtual worlds, is an Army initiative to better understand different social environments on the Web.
“We’re using this challenge as a way to let the public teach us in the government how to use these tools better,” Griffith said.
Challenges have been posted so far by government agencies including NASA; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Social Security Administration; and the Defense, Education, Energy, Treasury, Agriculture, State, Interior and Labor departments.
“I haven’t seen any laggards,” Godwin said. “Many agencies are working on challenges. Some take longer to ramp up than others, so you’ll see more coming out over the next few months.”