New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his staff launched the city’s second annual BigApps 2.0 competition Tuesday, Oct. 12, continuing the popular contest that aims to improve government transparency. Software developers and citizens are invited to compete for $20,000 in total cash prizes by designing Web apps that integrate data released by New York City departments.

Compared to last year’s first-ever NYC BigApps contest, the city doubled the number of data sets to more than 350. Data sets from more than 40 New York City agencies, including 15 agencies that weren’t included in 2009, are now available and include information such as public safety data, building complaints and real-time traffic numbers.

“[The competition] is innovative in that it’s more than just the mayoral agencies — it’s more expanded,” said Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “It’s always been that we want to try to get as much data that’s available and get it out there.”

The competition is open to citizens, and companies and nonprofit organizations with 50 employees or fewer. Contest applicants must use at least one of NYC DataMine’s data sets to fulfill the competition’s requirements. The DataMine is a searchable online catalog of data released by agencies and public-sector organizations.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) and the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications worked with the 40-plus agencies to provide the agency data sets on the online DataMine.

Some of the more notable data include restaurant inspections from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and from the Times Square Alliance, which provides a pedestrian count at a Times Square intersection between certain hours. Contest or not, Sbordone said he hopes agencies continue to provide information to the DataMine to keep it fresh and relevant.

“The thrust of getting data up there is something we want to continue,” Sbordone said.  “We’re going to be in the process of updating that site to make it more robust and searchable.”

Apps for last year’s competition focused on location-based services, such as public transportation data. With more agencies providing data for this year’s second annual competition, there may be opportunities for more targeted applications, but it’s uncertain what types of apps will be made, said Libby Langsdorf, a spokeswoman for the NYCEDC.

“There will be more applications targeted to one specific type of data,” she said. “That’s what’s so exciting about this competition because no one really knows.”

Most apps that are submitted are consumer focused and not really designed for businesses or city agencies. The primary focus is to make Web apps that benefit the public, Langsdorf said.

Last year’s winners included WayFinder NYC, an app for best directions to the New York City subway and New Jersey Port Authority Trans-Hudson stations; and Taxihack, an app to post live comments through e-mail and Twitter about the city’s taxis and their drivers.

All apps must be submitted by Jan. 12, 2011, and winners will be announced in March 2011. For more information about the competition, go to the NYC BigApps 2.0 home page.

“The inaugural NYC BigApps competition yielded an array of creative uses for city data — and with nearly twice as much data formatted for application use this year — there are even more possibilities with version 2.0,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.