Civic News

Challenge.gov wants to pay you to innovate government

Fearless and SmartLogic have finished development on their joint federal project bringing a scaled-up version of Hack Baltimore to the national stage.

Delali Dzirasa dons a cape to launch Hack Baltimore 2020.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Baltimore’s Fearless and SmartLogic have wrapped their joint project on the federal government’s Challenge.gov, modernizing the site and creating a simplified process for federal agencies to upload content and challenges to crowdsource solutions.

Operated by the US General Services Administration, Challenge.gov runs open prize competitions inviting the public to solve challenges — say, “detecting emerging threats in injury and violence using network science” or “identifying systemic strategies to address long-term impacts of COVID-19 on DEI in STEM.” Member of the public can also submit their own ideas for challenges. And yes, many offer cash prizes to winners.

Fearless, a downtown digital services firm that mostly works with the public sector and nonprofits, won the contract back in 2019 partly based on its launch of Hack Baltimore, which aims to bring technologists into the work of solving the city’s own pressing challenges. And because dev agency SmartLogic was integral in building that platform, too, it was only right that its team helped build the new open source Challenge.gov site, the partners said.

“This provides a tool for every citizen in the country to go on and solve a problem,” Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa told Technical.ly about the finished site. “People can make their voice heard and solve our country’s problems in a collective way.”

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The open source framework of the new site allows for local municipalities and states to use Challenge.gov as a launch point to create their own sites that can encourage citizens and companies to participate in civic tech and create solutions to problems of a given state or city.

Fearless is a notable member of the Baltimore tech community today because it creates solutions, and Challenge.gov follows its path to success: Hack Baltimore led to Challenge.gov. Seeing a hole in how small businesses navigate the HUBZone process led to HUBFinder that’s now used nationwide. Working with the Baltimore City Health Department to create the Health-of-the-City Dashboard helped the company break into the health industry.

The challenges and problems offered on the site are not only an opportunity for funding via the prize money, but a way to showcase the skills of a company or individual to break into the tech industry.

“Use your voice to make your government better,” Dzirasa said. Challenge.gov “is a very tangible way to do that.”

Check out Challenge.gov
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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