A government can accomplish nothing without the ingenuity of its people. This is why the federal government is committed to using online tools to make its problem-solving more open and collaborative. A growing number of agencies are testing the applications of crowdsourcing and citizen science to accomplish more, and in many cases, do things faster and better. Case in point: the National Archives and Records Administration’s Citizen Archivist Dashboard, which coordinates tagging and transcribing of historical records and documents.
There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.
This month we’re highlighting articles about challenge competitions and crowdsourcing across the federal government. Federal agencies can gain a wealth of ideas, services, solutions and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their talents and skills. Simply put, crowdsourcing means engaging the crowd. Often referred to as a form of open collaboration or innovation, crowdsourcing takes many forms, including challenges (or prize competitions), hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or micro-work, citizen science, and crowdfunding.
The White House released an updated Strategy for American Innovation last week, calling again on government to tap the American public’s brain trust to advance agency missions and address issues of national importance. The revised strategy stresses the importance of initiatives like Challenge.gov, the official website for all federal incentive prize and challenge competitions, which have seen the participation of tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and citizen problem-solvers.
NASA recently announced the winners of a smartwatch app interface competition. A Canadian duo won the design competition, and NASA’s plan is to build the app with 2016 funding to have it available for astronauts to use when they are aboard the International Space Station. This is the first government smartwatch app development we’ve talked about on DigitalGov and an example of a great mobile moment use case. Not only is the smart app interesting (see the UI images!
To promote crowdsourcing, one effective tool is, well, crowdsourcing. Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) unveiled the Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit. The toolkit contains information, resources, and best practices federal agencies can use to harness the power of public participation. Specifically, the toolkit provides: Process steps—An outline of five important steps agencies can use to plan, design and implement crowdsourcing or citizen science projects Case studies—Demonstrated success stories, benefits and challenges from other federal agencies that can inspire new projects or help in pitching ideas Map of U.
I recently found an app that provides a great service through crowdsourcing. Be My Eyes connects visually-impaired people with volunteers. Using the smartphone’s camera, the volunteers can perform tasks such as reading an expiration date or helping someone navigate unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a federal app, but I wanted to highlight it to demonstrate how crowdsourcing apps can make it easy for everyone to make a difference through microtasks.
“I tell the interns: In this lab, we’re all about failure. If you’re not failing, you’re not really doing anything.” –Sam Droege, USGS biologist, in Audubon magazine The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is actively working with citizen scientists to discover, collect, and organize a variety of scientific data that is critical for the future of understanding broad trends and findings across a variety of categories—from geological mapping to tracking bird species.
Crowdsourcing is a critical corner of the digital government landscape, and our December theme articles have covered the topic from a variety of angles. Before we head into January, where we will discuss upcoming trends on the digital horizon, we sat down to learn more about the evolution and future direction of federal crowdsourcing initiatives as a whole. We spoke with Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.
If you are a coastal resident, go to the beach, or are interested in digital volunteering, you can be a tremendous help in identifying and classifying changes that storms make to our coast after severe storms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched iCoast, a Web application where you can view aerial photographs and help classify them. The iCoast Team explains: We are looking for online volunteers to classify photos taken before and after Hurricane Sandy, and particularly targeting people with different kinds of coastal expertise, disaster skills, and volunteer interests.