In an effort to see how citizens can solve challenges facing the public sector, Colorado and Wyoming have teamed up with Google to host an app challenge -- on May 17 and 18, up to 300 local developers will gather in Denver for the 24-hour live coding event called the Google GovDev Challenge.

Participants will use Google tools to build apps, and three winners will be selected by judges and receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first, $1,000 for second, and $500 for third. Participants will be judged on their creation’s ability to solve the challenge, its technical merit, originality, and how well Google’s tools were incorporated into the app.

The focus of the challenge has not been announced; officials are saving that information until the event launches, said Brandon Williams, Google service delivery manager for the Governor's Office of Information Technology at the state of Colorado. Colorado has hosted app challenges before, including Go Code Colorado, a challenge focused on making public data more user-friendly.

But this challenge, Williams said, is different. “This was actually taking state data for problem sets and looking to private sector or even public sector developers to jam into a room and see what we can do with it, see how we can use it better, see how we can crunch it better, see what kind of data analysis we can provide," he said, "and actually do something that’s going to mean real tangible improvement for residents in Colorado and Wyoming."

The two states are both Google Apps for Government users; in fact, Wyoming was the first state to adopt the tools as its primary work platform. Colorado is also a cloud-first state and uses those tools, Williams said, and it’s leading to more open data and transparency efforts.

“We’re good at collecting data and we’re good at now making data available," he said. "I think what we’ve got is an opportunity to look at the data in new ways, and in government we can get set in our ways. I think this is unique in that we’re looking outside government to look at our own data differently.

A Google spokesperson said the company is excited to launch this event because not only is it a first for Google, but it also is an extension of the relationship the company has built with both Wyoming and Colorado. Governments, the spokesperson said, want the ability to communicate quickly with modern tools, and that’s what Google will bring to the challenge so that developers can find new solutions to common problems facing the public sector.

Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.