Outsourcing the Small Stuff, Too

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park Rick Hossman/AP File Photo

Agencies enlist the masses and giants to pitch in on digital projects.

The philosophical question that hangs over HealthCare.gov’s disastrous first two months, experts say, is whether government is capable of doing big things.

A related issue that’s often missed by digital government drop-ins is how adept the government has become at not doing some small things either, opting to outsource them to the masses instead.

There were two interesting examples of that this week. First the Energy Department released a list of 109 submissions for its American Energy Data Challenge, a contest to use the department’s open data to build mobile apps that help the public learn more about energy and reduce its energy footprint.

Judges are evaluating the entries for their top picks but Energy is also opening up the submissions for a “popular choice” prize.

Meanwhile, Kathryn David at GovLoop detailed recently how the new Google Trekker service could enable virtual tours of some national parks in the event of another government shutdown.

I’m not sure anything online can match the awesomeness of actually visiting the Grand Canyon, but having tried out a few museum tour apps and appreciated them, I won’t scoff at the idea.