Use open data from the Victorian Government to improve awareness and literacy for social and safety issues – potentially win $2,500

The Spatial Industries Business Association (SIBA) in conjunction with the Victorian Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI), have launched a data competition to identify approaches using Victorian government open data to improve awareness and literacy for social and safety issues.

The competition is open for registration, with entries closing 28 February and winners to be announced at the Connect Expo in Melbourne on 14 March this year.

So what makes this different to past data competitions held by or with Australian governments?

There’s a little prize money ($10,000 split across four $2,500 prizes), but more importantly there’s the offer of support for the winners to develop their entry over the next year.

The four winners will have an opportunity to consult with the Victorian government to continue development, with mentoring from leading SIBA members.

This is a step in the right direction for open data competitions in Australia – not just giving out prizes for using open data, but helping foster great projects so they can become sustainable and, where appropriate, commercial.

There’s been thousands of websites, apps and services created out of open data competitions around the world in the last five years, but only a handful have seen ongoing development and success.

As governments get better at understanding the value proposition for open data, I hope they begin appreciating the need to provide a support system for open data entrepreneurs – who often have little or no traditional start-up field and require additional support to take an open data prototype into a sustainable product.

Start-up incubators, Angel investors and even early stage venture capitalists may also want to look at how they can foster these ‘accidental entrepreneurs’, whose mindset can be more focused on social good or simply an interesting data challenge, than on profiting from their open data work.

One thing is certain to me – if governments don’t learn to be better at fostering the ongoing success of services developed from open data, at some point politicians and senior public servants will begin to see the open data space as an unsuccessful fad. A waste of public sector time and money, littered with the corpses of cool app ideas which never translated into economic returns or improved social outcomes.

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