When Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeastern United States in October 2012, the storm caused about $65 billion in damage and knocked out power to millions of people.
Slideshow: 5 cool federal crowdsourcing apps
- The "Did you feel that?" site at the United States Geological Survey. The website allows people to report if they felt an earthquake in their location, and that data is used in research. The data is also open to developers, several of whom have built apps using the USGS data.
- The and send them back to the agency, which the agency uses to conduct research on weather patterns. The research leads to new radar technologies and weather forecasting techniques, according to the agency. App from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Severe Storms Laboratory asks the public to write and send in their own weather reports
- The whichthe agency uses to determine areas of slow and high speeds. Measuring Broadband America App. More than 2 million volunteers downloaded the app to their phones, allowing the agency to anonymously collect data on Internet speeds.
Jenn Gustetic, the assistant director for open innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, said in a blog post Dec. 30 crowdsourcing tools have the ability to unlock potential from new corners of the American public.
Instead of having to go through organizations or groups to be heard, Americans can instead provide their input or experiences directly to the agencies that want them, she said.
"When we look at the purpose and potential of these tools, they are really unique ways to unlock new innovation like we've never been able to do before," Gustetic said. "They provide ways to engage individual members of the public in agency missions"
Chad Clay, the manager of Deloitte Digital, said the use of crowdsourcing among federal agencies is only going to increase as tight budgets force the government to look at alternative ways to gather data or provide services.
"Tapping into the crowd can produce results that are quicker and cheaper than they might otherwise have been and gives agencies a way to collect information or provide services for their constituents," Clay said.
He said agencies should embrace crowdsourcing as just another tool they can use to help bolster the work of their employees, instead of viewing it as competition. By engaging thousands of people, agencies can accomplish what might not have been possible a few years ago, he said.
"In crowdsourcing the needle in a haystack comes to you. The skills and interests of people who know what your agency does comes to you," Clay said.
He also offered advice to federal managers on how to successfully incorporate crowdsourcing into their app development, including:
- Identify areas where the agency has not had the resources it has needed and what data or information would be useful.
- Craft a project involving clear goals, specific metrics and with a target 'crowd' identified that could help fill a needed role.
- Make the business case for the project, not just in possible savings, but in additional data, resources or community developed.