Over the last weekend, a hackathon/apps contest took place, this time in Latin America. Desarrollando América Latina (Developing Latin America) was quite an impressive effort put together by Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen Foundation) and supported by various organizations, including the Web Foundation.
Developing Latin America took place in 6 Latin American countries simultaneously: Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Participants convened in one city per country on 3-4 December and worked for 30 hours on their presentations and projects while all locations where linked via video. The goal of this contest was to build applications addressing social problems in three areas: Education, Human security, and Public budget.
More than 50 applications were submitted and 3 winners where selected on every country. A panel of judges (including yours truly) convened last Monday to review the country winners and select the 3 best ones for the grand prizes. Upon a few hours of personal and grouped deliberation, the result was as follows:
- Brazil – Onde Acontece http://desarrollandoamerica.org/2011/12/onde-acontece/
A crime-mapping application that mixes various datasets and provides information for citizens and journalists and allows research on trends and causes based on the data.
- Chile – Escuela Popular http://desarrollandoamerica.org/2011/12/escuela-popular/
Shows data on quality and performance of public schools in Chile but intends to add a participation layer so citizens can also review, rate and compare.
- Uruguay – Moña Azul http://desarrollandoamerica.org/2011/12/mona-azul/
Similar to the previous one, intends to address the national challenge around education in Uruguay, showing failure rates per district and some other performance data to foster citizen discussion and with the aim to impact on public policies.
I think the commitment of people that can do applications like those in just 30 hours is impressive and reassures the global trend towards more open government.
Said that, there are also two other things I want to mention that we have to keep in mind for future app contests: Sustainability (and business viability) and Originality.
Starting with the latter, we’ve seen many apps very similar to others we’ve seen before. It was difficult for me to award points on this topic. On one hand, I know of many that already exist and are even better finished. On the other, I could also argue that in most cases if was a country’s first, so helps make a difference there and this should be taken into consideration. I tried to balance the scores there with this in mind and the amount of time the teams were given.
I would like to highlight an app that was not awarded but I really liked the idea in the originality sense: Presupuéstate. The goal of that app is to help yourself how to budget and save for paying for the best university you can afford in terms of education quality, proximity, and a number of other variables.
Sustainability is something that has concerned me much around app contests. The goal of this contest was to address social concerns and, as such, it’s difficult to imagine how many of those (even the winner apps) will be able to make a sustainable business plan for their apps. There’s no question about the usefulness to society but those teams behind the apps need something else for keeping them alive. Might be donations, might be real value-added services offered for a rate. I would love to see this business and sustainability side take into account more significantly in future contests. If not, we may end up seeing a number of good ideas dying, unfortunately.
A good example that could be taken into account is our own work with mobile entrepreneurs where they are trained and coached from a technical but also a business point of view. The winner teams are being awarded some funding and coaching as a prize. I very much hope they’ll maximize it’s impact on making their apps a sustainable success.
Well, all in all, an impressive effort, as I said at the beginning, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a 2012 edition. What is more, I’m already hearing a Developing the Caribbean is in the works. Stay tuned.