App competition seeks to improve civic life

October 17, 2011

These days, there's an app for almost everything. And we mean everything.

The iFinditChicago app won the community leg of a competition created in the spirit of transparent government and improving access to city services.  

The Apps 4 Metro Chicago competition was started this summer to pit Chicago's nerds against each other in an effort to improve their community's quality of life.

The contest was sponsored by the Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC), in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Motorola Mobility. 

iFinditChicago designed an app which they say "connects Chicago residents to vital food, medical and shelter resources faster." After beating out nine other finalists in public online-voting, they were awarded $5,000.

The MacArthur Foundation offered more than $50,000 in prizes and Motorola Mobility is chipping in another $10,000. Other partners in the competition include the Chicago Community Trust and the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.

"The Community Round overall was a wonderful success producing a diverse and high quality group of apps that will be incredibly helpful to all Metro Chicago Residents," said Kathryn Auerbach, spokesperson for MCIC. 

You won't be able to find this app on Apple's iTunes store.  "Currently most of the low cost smart phones available operate on the Android platform which is part of the reason why iFinditChicago is currently available only in the Android platform," said Auerbach.

Monday's award ceremony, held at the IBM Innovation Center in Chicago, was the second of three categories in the competition, which include transportation, community and the grand challenge.

The first leg, the transportation app, was won by Spot Hero, which allows parking spot owners to earn income by renting their parking spot when not using it. 

Built into the judging criteria is the long-term usability of the app and whether it will have legs and business sustainability. Other judging criteria include functionality, creativity and usefulness. 

The community leg's second place winner was Mi Parque, which helps residents of the community "contribute and share their vision for the future of Little Village’s new park," according to the competition's website.

The grand challenge, the final leg of the competition, will take place in December and will come with a $10,000 cash prize for the first-place winner. 

"All of our Community Round and Transportation Round winners will be able to continue to revise their apps and re-submit for the Grand Challenge which ends December 2nd at 11:59p.m.," said Auerbach.

"The Grand Challenge will work a bit differently then the previous rounds.  The public will get to see all of our eligible apps and pick their favorites. Our expert judges will also review all submitted apps and pick their top five," said Auerbach. " The top 5 apps from the 1st round and the top five apps from the second round will be added to these 10 apps and given to our Grand Challenge expert panel who will rank all 20 apps with prizes going to the top 10."