Open data is all around us – in the apps and websites we use, the tools that help families find housing and schools, and more. The federal government is a critical provider of open data to the public, with hundreds of thousands of datasets maintained by government agencies and made available on platforms such as data.gov.
But open data on its own is not enough to deliver its full potential for Americans. Federal open datasets need to be enabled through digital tools that put data at the fingertips of communities, businesses, families, and decision makers nationwide. By engaging technologists and community members in creating tools with open data, government agencies can exponentially increase that data’s utility and value – and solve pressing national challenges. The Open Data for Good Grand Challenge seeks to reward the most creative and high impact uses of open data in digital tools that solve problems for the public.
This Grand Challenge was inspired by The Opportunity Project (TOP), a program of Census Open Innovation Labs at the U.S. Census Bureau, used by federal agencies to catalyze digital tools with open data.
TOP sprints brings together government, communities, and technologists to create data-driven digital tools that address our nation’s greatest challenges using federal open data. Through 12-week development cycles, or “sprints,” technologists from industry and social sectors — including companies, nonprofits, and universities — create digital tools to address challenges such as family economic well being, climate change, COVID-19 response and many more. To learn more about The Opportunity Project, visit opportunity.census.gov.
Since launching in 2016, more than 20 federal agencies and over 1,500 individuals from companies, universities and community organizations have co-created nearly 150 new digital products for the public. In 2020 alone, participants co-created more than 30 new digital products addressing challenges in the natural and built environment—such as reducing ocean plastic pollution, developing effective and efficient markets for recycled materials, facilitating sustainable rural economic development, and more.
TOP supports the Census Bureau’s mission and the OPEN Government Data Act mandate to identify and disseminate public data assets as well as utilize these public data assets to grow the economy, promote transparency, and make government data more useful and accessible to the public. Both open data and The Opportunity Project as a mechanism to unleash its potential, are key components of the Federal Data Strategy and Department of Commerce Strategic Plan, which focus on utilizing data as an asset to grow the economy, increase the effectiveness of the Federal Government, promote transparency, and make government data more useful to the public, businesses, and researchers.
One of the greatest challenges associated with public interest technology (or civic technology) development is product sustainability and adoption. Open data is used to create many products for the public good, but the teams who built these products often face challenges in deploying and maintaining them. To advance some of the most promising technology solutions built with open data, the Census Bureau and its collaborators are launching the Open Data for Good Grand Challenge. This Challenge aims to 1) help technologists and their collaborators better deploy their data-driven technology solutions, ensure they reach end users, and drive impact of the critical problems they aim to solve, and 2) to reward exemplary uses of federal open data. This challenge is open to:
- Anyone who participated or participates in The Opportunity Project sprints or TOPx sprints in 2020 or 2021 (between the dates of 1/1/2020 and 10/18/2021).
- Anyone in the general public who follows The Opportunity Project methodology via TOP’s public product development toolkit to create a user-centered digital tool using federal open data in 2020 or 2021 (between the dates of 1/1/2020 and 10/18/2021).
Please refer to the eligibility section below for full details.
The Census Bureau is conducting this challenge under the authority of and in accordance with the America COMPETES Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 3719.
Challenge Goals and Categories
In this competition, prizes will be awarded in 3 main categories that capture a range of critical problems, as described below. Teams applying for the prize must submit their product in at least one category, and can submit in up to two categories.
- Climate, Resilience, and the Natural Environment: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as reducing ocean plastic pollution, creating markets for recycled materials, enabling data for agricultural decision making, transportation emissions, air quality, community resilience to climate change, or other similar natural environment and climate challenges.
- Society, Economy, and the Built Environment: e.g., products focusing on challenges such as family economic well-being and economic security, rural economic development, civics education, supporting small and minority-owned businesses, analyzing federal spending, infrastructure planning around housing and migration trends, affordable housing, assisting resettled refugees, or other social and economic challenges.
- Health and COVID-19: e.g., products focused on challenges such as helping state and local public health authorities track and understand COVID-19, helping stakeholders working alongside healthcare make key operational decisions, and helping consumers and businesses manage point of care testing data outside lab settings, or other COVID-19 health-related challenges.
Please refer to the prizes section below for full details on prize opportunities within each category.
Total Cash Prize Pool
This is a single-phase competition in which a total of $100,000 will be awarded by the Census Bureau. We expect additional monetary and in-kind (non-monetary) prizes to be added by agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other entities; so, please refer to this posting regularly for updates. This section describes the prizes available in each category, as well as additional prize opportunities for which any applicant can be considered.
Climate, Resilience and Natural Environment
A total of $50,000 will be awarded by the Census Bureau to exceptional digital products that address challenges within the broad theme of climate, resilience, and natural environment:
- One (1) Grand prize: $25,000
- One (1) Runner up prize: $15,000
- One (1) Student prize (student teams are also eligible for grand prize and runner up; student prize only open to those who can demonstrate student status):* $10,000**
- Additional monetary and in-kind (non-monetary) prizes are expected to be announced for projects focusing on reducing marine/ocean plastic pollution and creating markets for recycled materials.
Society, Economy, and the Built Environment
A total of $50,0000 will be awarded by the U.S. Census Bureau to exceptional digital products that focus on challenges broadly relating to topics such as social support systems, businesses and economic development, and the built environment:
- One (1) Grand prize: $25,000
- One (1) Runner up prize: $15,000
- One (1) Student prize (*student teams also eligible for grand prize and runner up; student prize only open to those who can demonstrate student status): $10,000
Health & COVID-19
- One or more prizes will be awarded to exceptional digital products that focus on challenges like helping state and local public health authorities track and understand disease transmission, helping stakeholders make key operational decisions, and helping consumers and businesses manage testing data. Specific prizes are to be announced and we expect these to include monetary prizes sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Potential additional prizes (may be combined with monetary prizes)
We expect to partner with organizations that will offer in kind prizes. Applicants in any category are eligible to be considered for non-monetary/in-kind prizes. You must opt into in-kind prize consideration when you enter. Please be advised that opting-in to consideration for in-kind prizes may require additional information about your organization. Once confirmed, in-kind prize opportunities will be announced in the coming weeks; please check regularly for updates.
The U.S. Census Bureau and any future partnering agencies may award different prize amounts at their discretion. The winners of any monetary or in-kind awards that may be provided by partner agencies and organizations will be selected based on the judging process outlined for the competition with input from both the Census Bureau and partners. Additional prizes may be added to this competition before the submission window closes, so please refer to this page regularly for updates.