BigApps and Open Data

| MSNY Staff

BigApps team at the BigApps Block Party on July 19 at Brooklyn's Industry City

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in the BigApps Block Party at Industry City in Brooklyn.  This marks the fifth version of this annual initiative from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.  More than 100 projects were presented by teams of civic hackers and then evaluated by panels of judges and the public at large.  Participants competed for the chance to advance to the final stage of BigApps, which offers over $100,000 to go around in prize money.

Microsoft is supporting BigApps and other initiatives like it because we understand that some of our community’s most-needed solutions will be created by ad-hoc teams of regular people leveraging technology in new and innovative ways to change lives for the better.  That’s the power of technology.  That’s what gets us up every morning.

At its heart, BigApps is a call-to-action focused on the wide and growing range of open data available to the public.  Building upon last year’s much-praised open data policy for New York City, BigApps is a chance for inventors, entrepreneurs, designers, hackers, engineers, and the larger New York City community to come together over a period of several months to make meaningful tools that help people work, play, learn, and live better.

Some of the great ideas under development include apps called Plexx (which allows people who lack college degrees to find and apply to jobs), Reported (which enables easy mobile reporting of people’s taxi complaints), and Easy Food Stamps (which allows citizens to engage more easily with governmental forms in connection with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).  But the winner of the people’s choice vote may have been the biggest star of the day: Heat Seek NYC.  An Internet of Things approach to solving the problem of landlords not meeting their legal obligations to provide heat during cold winter days and nights, Heat Seek NYC aims to empower tenants with small, low-cost temperature sensors that can be networked together to report real-time evidence.

Talented developers and designers across New York are working on new and exciting tools all the time.  BigApps brings them together with the missions, motives, resources, and public attention to help see their projects through for maximum impact.  It is also a chance to connect the public more directly to the civic tech world.  For families, the Block Party was a chance to show their children STEM professionals making a difference in the world.  For our Technology and Civic Innovation team, it was an opportunity to support people driving public-benefit tech solutions and to exchange ideas with the eclectic New York civic tech scene – from government officials to professional coders to community activists to non-profit executives to entrepreneurs.

Seeing the projects and the enthusiasm from the teams who presented made us proud to be part of such a great community.  Saturday was a reminder that together we can build a 21st century New York, in which improved access to information about everything from food stamps to jobs to educational opportunities makes so much more possible. We look forward to the culmination of this year’s BigApps initiative with an exciting awards ceremony on September 16th!

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