In July the Labor Department launched its first-ever contests to spur the software developer community to create “apps,” or smartphone and computer applications, that would be useful for the public. We launch these contests using the federal government’s innovative tool at www.challenge.gov. The goal of these contests was simple: leverage developers’ technical expertise and creativity to package publicly-available DOL data and other resources and deliver ready-to-use information to workers, job seekers, and consumers.
DOL agencies regularly produce mountains of data on enforcement actions, employment, unemployment, wages, and other topics. This information can be useful for those searching for a job, workers looking for ways improve their skills, and consumers who want to know that the businesses they use value safe, healthy, and fair workplaces.
We knew this data was valuable, but we also knew that we hadn’t considered every way to put it in the hands of the American people — at home, in the office, or on the go.
We ran two contests: the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Challenge and the InformAction Challenge. And today, we’re announcing the winners of each and awarding $68,000 in prize money.
The OES Challenge asked developers to take data from DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and create applications that could help individuals plan their education or job training strategies, negotiate pay and benefits with employers, find places to update their skill sets, and make informed decisions about potential career changes. The submissions creatively packaged these data and presented it in useful formats, and all of the competitors’ entries are highlighted on the OES Challenge page, but a few submissions stood out from the rest.
Where are the Jobs? received DOL’s first place prize. This app allows users to retrieve average salaries of occupations and occupation groups by State and/or region and has a comparison function that allows users to find where job types or industries are centered and the best compensated. This app will help workers make better choices about where to get training and education, apply for positions or, if necessary, move to find good jobs. Again, the developer who created the application used data that DOL already publishes regularly. But now, that data can be consumed, analyzed, and acted upon by almost anyone, not just economists and sophisticated users of BLS statistics.
Our second and third-place, honorable mention and People’s Choice Award winners also produced innovative and useful applications. You should judge them for yourself. In addition, there were plenty of other submissions that caught our attention and showcased innovative approaches to using our data, and integrating it with other sources. All can be useful to users in different ways.
The winning submission for our InformAction App Challenge is just as exciting. The Eat, Shop, Sleep App is already available in Apple’s App Store. It integrates publicly-available enforcement data from the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Wage and Hour Division (WHD) with consumer ratings web sites like Yelp and other tools, like Google Maps. When you want to know if the restaurant or hotel you’re planning to visit has received positive reviews from people like, you can also make sure that they pay their employees fair wages and provide safe and healthy working conditions. Including this information as people make decisions about the businesses they want to visit will allow consumers to make informed decisions, and will keep businesses honest about how they treat their employees. Again, I encourage you to peruse our second- and third-place finishers, as well, and the four honorable mention winners, including the People’s Choice Award.
These two challenges are just the beginning for the Labor Department. We still have a dedicated site – http://developer.dol.gov/ – that includes Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs), both of which make it easier for developers to incorporate DOL data into their applications. In the coming months, we’ll be launching more challenges for our various agencies that will deal with issues like disability employment, equal pay, and worker misclassification. Like our first two contests, these challenges will engage developers by putting their expertise to work to create applications that turn raw DOL data into actionable tools for workers, job seekers, and employers across the country. We’ll make prize money available to those who participate, and get some of the best developers in the country to help deliver this crucial information to the American public. Stay tuned!