Mobile app designers are tackling social and civic issues across the region through a competitive “virtual hackathon.” The AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge allows innovative thinkers and designers to create apps for cash prizes to make their ideas a reality. WBFO’s Ashley Hirtzel spoke to a few of the dueling app creators.
The mobile apps are currently just prototypes, but they will need to fully functional before judging begins on Thursday. Jessica Lee is the creator of Handstack, her entry in the challenge. She says the mobile technology provides a speedy way to bring the community together for projects and events.
“It allows you to post events and tasks that you need help with and they can help out instantly by clicking on the task and signing up to volunteer,” said Lee” “You can use Handstack to organize anything from more serious things like protests to things like organizing pick-up soccer with people in the neighborhood.”
Lee says the idea will also help non-profit organizations, with smaller budgets coordinate events.
Three Square Meals is the name of the app Dan Gigante is helping to create with his team. It’s similar to Four Square, where people check-in to restaurants, but it lets people to check-in based on their meal.
“Which is fun, because you can keep track of what you’ve had, if you liked it or not, and then share that with friends. But, one of the great parts about it is we’re highlighting local restaurants. So, you can perhaps choose where you want to eat based on what place is local,” said Gigante.
And Gigante says that local restaurant component is key.
“Recent studies show that for every dollar $100 that’s spent at local independents’ generates $45 dollars of secondary local spending compared to $14 for big box chains. So, if this helps people decide where to eat based on what might help their local community that’s how we think this could help from the civic standpoint,” said Gigante.
Clark Dever is the Co-Founder of Heads Up Display Inc. His team has created Buffalo Open GIS. The program will let users map data useful to the community.
“If you for instance we’re interested in marking graffiti around so that people later could go remove it. You can open up the app on your phone and you click one button and it marks the GPS location. You can type in a description and rate the severity, if that’s what you were doing, and later people can action on it,” said Dever.
Non-governmental groups can also use the app to map things like the location of a community garden or farmers market.
“Basically taking resources, making them more accessible, and doing it in a mobile platform,” said Dever.
Dever says he believes the mapping technology could change how people go about their daily lives.
The goal of the Civic App Challenge is to encourage local developers to build apps that serve local needs and engage citizens with their municipalities. Gigante says it’s also showing how mobile technologies can lead to the next generation of jobs and investment.
“Mobile is so hot right now and there are a lot of opportunities. If this helps show that there’s jobs here and that we can keep the recent grads in town. I mean, I think this is one of the best things that this could,” said Gigante.
The challenge was a collaboration between AT&T, University at Buffalo, State University of New York at Fredonia, Z80 Labs, InfoTech Niagara, Launch NY, United Way of Buffalo &Erie County, d!g Buffalo and Hack Upstate
The grand prize winner will receive $10,000, the second place champion will take home $5,000, and the third prize winner will receive $3,000. Thirty-three apps have been submitted to the challenge. The winners will be announced at d!g Buffalo.