Apps for Development, a year later

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It’s roughly a year since we made it to the Finalists to the Apps for Developemnt competition of the World Bank. To commemorate the date, the Bank prepared an article to asses the impact.

They contacted all finalists and made a little interview (Here is the full interview with our team). I was fascinated with the idea and eager to read the outcome. With all finalists, we share a Facebook group so we are more able to keep track of each other’s whereabouts. I do see being finalists was very positive personally and professionally for all of us. But I was also interested on the impact for all those non-finalists. Many of them jumped into the Open Data portal to participate. Are they still engaged? Was participation incentive enough to continue developing in the area? Are they likely to participate again? Unfortunately none of these questions was answered.

This is the article:

PS> Some links are internal, so they will only work if you are inside the Bank (…)

Almost exactly one year ago, at last year’s Spring Meetings, President Zoellick celebrated the 15 winners of the Apps for Development global competition that challenged software developers to create apps related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) using World Bank data. The competition complemented the Bank’s Open Data initiative, and encouraged non-traditional audiences to use the Bank’s datasets.

Still, the question that dogs most apps competitions is “So what?” What happens after the awards ceremony and photo op? Where do the software developers go from here? Have they been able to scale their applications’ use to a wider audience?

The most valuable part of being recognized as one of the winners is the ‘stamp of approval’ of the World Bank, which gives other organizations confidence in using the application for their own purposes,” said first prize winner Frank van Cappelle, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne.

Van Cappelle’s app, StatPlanet—which helps users explore more than 3,000 Bank economic indicators with interactive maps and graphics—was customized soon after to visualize country, regional and global performance data on 19 key education indicators, released under the name EdStats by the Bank’s Human Development Network. Paid customizations of StatPlanet are also under way for several organizations who wish to modify the app to better suit their purposes, including the International Food Policy Research Institute and the UN MDG GAP Task Force. </span>

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Similarly, the competition served as a launch-pad for Athman Mohamed of Kenya, who created FACTCHA, an app that turns the few seconds Internet users spend to verify themselves as humans (e.g., secure id boxes) into time spent raising awareness about the MDGs. Rather than typing random words and phrases, FACTCHA-users are quizzed on their knowledge of the MDGs. Since the competition, Mohamed served as the technology lead for the Kenya Open Data Initiative, which successfully put Kenya on the global map as one of the first countries in the developing world to open up their government data. After receiving a commendation from the Ministry of Information for his efforts, Mohamed now serves as director of ICT for Trade and Transport Facilitation at a $400 million non-for-profit trust where he previously served in management.Spaniard Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño was a finalist for the app Know Your World, an interactive quiz of 17,000 questions fueled by Bank data about the Millennium Development Goals. Sánchez believes his participation in the competition led to a leap in his professional career: he is now the director of Science and Technology at the Global Adaptation Institute, where he works with data and development issues.

The competition also benefited the Bank in unexpected ways. Allowing unfettered access to the Bank’s treasure trove of data helped Bank staff uncover issues in the datasets and technical glitches that otherwise would not have been discovered so quickly. The ability to correct these issues as they arose bettered the quality of the data and the ability to access it with ease. It was a win-win situation.

<span ="font-family:serif;font-size:small;">Finalist Bruno Sánchez shares his own story of the competition in this video.</span>

The reach of Apps for Development was striking. In the six months leading up to the deadline more than 80,000 visitors from 200 countries visited the website. Software developers from 36 countries entered more than 100 software applications, which ranged from data visualizations to mobile apps. More than half were submitted from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In fact, Africa was the region with the most submissions overall.

With Apps for Development receiving such a tremendous response, the World Bank Institute’s Innovation Practice is now developing a World Bank Challenge platform to institutionalize the process and to support a wide variety of competitions. Indeed, the Apps for Climate competition was launched in December during the United Nations Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa. Surely, this is just the beginning.

Contributed by the </em><span =”color:#0000ff;font-family:serif;font-size:medium;”>World Bank Institute’s Open Innovation team</span> 

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