For the past two years, innovation contests have been all the rage for local governments looking to use Web-based applications to address city issues. Now, the state of New York is taking the apps contest concept to new grounds: state parks.

Each year, 56 million people from around the world flock to New York's 213 state parks and historic sites, which include the spectacular Niagara Falls. The "Play in the Parks App Contest" challenges graduate students at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) to create app proposals that enhance the visitation experience.

"The parks are places that are waiting to be discovered, but people need information on how to go about discovering them," said Dan Keefe, spokesman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "It's always a challenge because each park is different, seasons change, campgrounds may be booked and we're affected by Mother Nature in some ways."

Along with the office's brochure and Web site, Keefe added, the ideal app would give citizens access to information on park features, directions, hours of operation and special events. The contest offers a total of $5,000 in scholarships for the best app proposals. The developer who designs the best app will win a $2,000 grand prize and have the opportunity to develop his or her idea into a full-fledged application. The contest deadline is April 30.

The competition comes out of a collaborative effort from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, NYU-Poly and the New York State Chief Information Officer and Office for Technology, which last June launched the Empire 2.0 initiative. The Empire 2.0 group, composed of various state agencies and private universities, promotes the use of technology and social media as tools for government transparency and interaction with citizens.

"More and more people rely on the Internet and their mobile devices to interact with government and find information anywhere, anytime," said Gov. David A. Paterson in a statement. "This is a wonderful opportunity for the graduate students at NYU-Poly to use modern technologies to help New York showcase its wonderful parks and historic sites. Best of luck to all the applicants."

 

Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer