This month, Amazon placed $150,000 in credits up for grabs for innovative cities using its cloud computing technology -- and another $100,000 in credits to companies using it for public-sector solutions.

Titled the City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge, the contest is coordinated by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and will divide the $150,000 among three cites based on population sizes, and will award four $25,000 credits to forward-thinking companies solving government challenges. Application submissions are already being received, and winners will be judged after the contest closes on May 12.

According to the contest rules, the submissions must all be tied to projects that incorporate Amazon’s suite of cloud tools and also must be accompanied by videos describing the project.

“We’re very hopeful that in doing a best practices for local government effort as well as a partners in innovation effort we’re going to get some new and different use-cases that we at AWS wouldn’t have even have thought of, and that folks in the government community are going to see real value in,” said Steve Halliwell, the AWS senior global director of state and local government and education.

Though the first iteration of the contest, Halliwell said he envisions it will return and be modified from year to year based on customer feedback and Amazon’s own insights. The contest, he suggested, should be taken not only for its immediate face value benefits but also as an indication of Amazon’s larger vision for where it sees itself collaborating and supporting government in future years.

“I think the program will be multi-year and be a long-term investment in this market," he said, "but it will continue to change and improve as customers want to see it."

The challenge represents this starting point, a mechanism to discover  potential uses of its services, while also rewarding municipalities and companies pioneering creative answers to civic problems and needs.

“We wanted to make sure there was a strong component of this effort that was significantly based around recognizing and rewarding government efforts to build things that are innovative or unique or deliver new services,” Halliwell said.

Empathizing with municipal burdens, Halliwell said, it’s understood that governments often have to work within the constraints of limited budgets while providing a daunting degree of public services. In the hustle and hard decision-making, innovation must sometimes take a back seat to demands.

“There is a bigger picture here, which is that Amazon is very focused on helping our customers in the public sector lower costs and offer new services,” he said.

After entries are collected, a panel of industry expert will judge entries. Below is a listing of panel judges taking part in the challenge. Click here for details.

Judging Panel

  • Pete Reynolds, Executive Director of Innovation and the Cities Lab, Future Cities Catapult
  • Scott Case, Founding CEO Startup America; Co-Founder and CEO, Main Street Genome
  • Mayor Christopher Coleman, Mayor St. Paul, MN and President of National League of Cities
  • Joe Dignan, Founder, Kintechi Ltd and Former Chief Analyst- EMEA Public Sector, Ovum
  • Ed DeSeve, Former Special Advisor to the President for Recovery Implementation
  • Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President, the Aspen Institute
  • Dr. Gerald Gordon, President and CEO, Fairfax County (Virginia) Economic Development Authority
  • Bill McCluggage, former CIO of the Irish Government
  • Dr. Glenn Ricart, Founder and CTO of US Ignite and member of Internet Hall of Fame
  • Sonal Shah, Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the first White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
  • Bob Sofman, Co-Executive Director, Code for America
  • Dr. Mark Thompson, Strategy Director, Methods Group, and Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Cambridge Judge Business School, U.K.
Government Technology Staff Writer Jason Shueh Jason Shueh  |  Staff Writer

Jason Shueh is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine. His articles and writing have covered numerous subjects, from minute happenings to massive trends. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Shueh grew up in the east bay and Napa Valley, where his family is based. His writing has been published previously in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Amazon Publishing, Bike Magazine, Diablo Magazine, The Sierra Sun, Nevada Appeal, The Union and the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.