Plan in a Box

Easy-to-use tools to cut through bureaucratic red tape, via the Knight News Challenge.

How can we make the places we live more awesome through data?

That's the question the Knight Foundation posed to coders around the world back in March, when they launched the Knight News Challenge: Open Gov. The foundation sought projects that would open up government data to citizens on the local, state or national level. At least 886 groups submitted ideas for a sliver of the $5 million prize money.

As we wrote at the time:

Amid all of the submissions are some familiar innovations we've already encountered at Atlantic Cities, formerly as nascent ideas now competing for a chance to scale up: our favorite guerrilla wayfinding campaign from Raleigh, North Carolina; Code for America's playful StreetMix web app; the San Francisco-based Urban Prototyping Festival; and a community-driven transportation planning project based on the kind of data analytics we wrote about here.

Below, a look at the eight winning projects, which will receive over $3.2 million in funding among them.

1. Civic Insight: A property history research tool that unveils geo-located ownership, permitting, and inspection information.

2. GitMachines: Downloadable "virtual machines" set up to meet government information technology guidelines, so governments can focus on app-building and not server-building.

3. OpenCounter: An open-source web app based in Santa Cruz that guides entrepreneurs through required permits, licenses, and taxes. Its creators describe it as "a front-end for city hall made for entrepreneurs."

4. Open Gov for the Rest of Us: Campaign in Chicago's South Side to connect low-income neighborhood residents to internet access and government data including "foreclosure, immigration, schools, and crime."

5. Outline.com: Visualization tool to illustrate the impact of policy on citizens and communities. For example: You can figure out how an individual with making $20,000 per year would be taxed under a proposed budget.

6. Oyez Project: Online and mobile application that provides summaries, opinions, audio recordings, and transcripts from court cases. The project currently exists for Supreme Court cases, and this would expand it to federal appellate and state supreme courts.

7. Plan in a Box: Website builder, from the OpenPlans team, for communicating planning information on projects such as bridge replacements or downtown changes. "Designed for town employees to use, the simple template will take the hassle out of keeping citizens fully informed."

8. Procure.io: Online tool to post and bid on government requests for proposals. The creators said they hope competition will "decrease the cost of open government and increase innovation."

About the Author

Sara Johnson

Sara Johnson is a former fellow at CityLab. 

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