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Calling All Data Enthusiasts: GSA Needs You


The General Services Administration wants to harness the power of open data to spur governmentwide improvements and transparency, so it’s tapping the collective brain for help.

The agency announced a new competition called the Digital Innovation Hack-a-thon, scheduled for Oct. 16 at the GSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to a Wednesday Federal Register notice. Participants will be expected to develop technology-driven projects that could be replicated throughout the government.

Each participant will receive project ideas, existing code and data sets, and will be asked to design an app, application programming interface or data mashup. All open federal data collected by GSA is fair game, according to the notice.

Although GSA has yet to provide a finalized list of projects, some possibilities listed on the notice include tools to help agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tools to better use information in government data centers.

The event website went live the same day as the notice, and within 10 minutes, the event had its first registrant, Joseph Castle, GSA IT lead for digital innovation and strategy, told Nextgov.

GSA organized in a similar event in May. 

Although there are countless project possibilities, the agency took care to emphasize the importance of incorporating innovation into each one.

“GSA does not want an analysis tool that tells what is already known,” the notice stated. “This should be a forward-thinking solution that enhances transparency.”

A panel of three judges will evaluate each project. Award scores will be based on the usefulness of the information, creativity, innovation and the project’s outcomes. But the area the judges will focus on most -- it’s worth 50 percent of the overall score-- will be technical competence and capabilities, according to the notice.

The three teams with the highest average overall scores will likely win a cash prize, according to the Federal Register notice. Although the amount is still unknown, it could be as much as $1,000 for each member of the winning teams.

All participants should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. And if a participant is a federal employee, he or she can’t act “within the scope of employment,” according to the notice.

(Image via Genialbaron/

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