The FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is in Oakland to, among other things, announce that there is now a $100,000 prize to anyone who can develop an app to help bridge the digital divide. It will connect government and members of the underserved population across America.
"We encourage states, cities and townships to open their public data bases to developers and we challenge developers to build great apps with that data," said Genachowski.
The goal of the Apps for Communities money is to get the 33 percent of Americans who do not use broadband at home to get involved. Experts on the panel say the non users just don't see relevance in the information or applications online. Chairman Genachowski gave an example of the kind of apps that might qualify for the money.
"An app that might deliver seasonal or contract job postings to mobile phones, directly by text message or using other apps," said Genachowski.
Some say there's no doubt app developers are ready and able to make the connection happen.
When you do make government data at any level available to developers, it is kind of like opening the candy store for the kids. They just want to build stuff with it," said Code for America Exec. Director Jen Pahlka.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she wouldn't mind a few apps herself to make her job easier.
"I could use some phone apps that would help us during a disaster or with public safety that would let communities become more involved," said Mayor Quan.
This is the first contest of its kind to turn government data into content, apps and services that expand peoples' choices about education, childcare, food, services and jobs.