The real value of raw data lies in ways in which we can extract useful information from it, and when it comes to government data, a whole new front opens up in data exploration. And it is to encourage such exploration that the “#OpenDataApps Challenge” has just been launched by National Informatics Centre (NIC) in association with NASSCOM ( National Association of Software and Services Companies).

Data sets from different Government departments is being regularly uploaded to the data portal data.gov.in.

Though the portal has been in existence for just a few months it now boasts of nearly 3,600 datasets from 49 departments. Now that we have the data, comes the question: what is being done with it?

Transparency is a key concept that is associated with the global open data movement, as is the opening up of access to data that is of commercial value, which can promote the creation of tools and services in different areas that are useful to people.

The creation of tools and services centered on this data was focussed upon at a conference on “#OpenDataApps for Innovation in Governance” that was organised in Delhi on August 8 by the NIC in association with NASSCOM.

But more is in store if this contest does result in the creation of trend-setting applications and tools that help in ensuring better governance and accountability and maybe even aids citizens in securing better services from the government.

What is the Challenge about? The contest has to do with creating applications with official data sets that will help improve “delivery of government services, promote government transparency, accountability and public participation and spur citizen engagement.” It is open to to individuals, teams and business entities - participants must be above 18. Registrations began on August 8. (http://data.gov.in/

appschallenge).

Contestants will have to submit a concept note about the application they plan to create by August 20. Considerations for shortlisting contestants include “superior user experience”, innovativeness, use of Indian languages, uniqueness and deployment of the latest in technology. The apps could be geared towards different platforms and devices mobiles, tablets, Web, SMS, voice-based etc.

Shortlisted contestants will be invited to demonstrate their applications in New Delhi between September 25 to 27. The demos can be made in person or over the Web. Winners will walk away with 3 first prizes of Rs 1 lakh each and 3 second prizes of Rs 50,000 each.

The government hopes that the contest will drive what it calls data-driven innovation. Data portals of other countries have witnessed the growth of an app development culture centered around open government data. India's fledgeling open government data intiative could also be headed that way.

More In: EMPOWER | FEATURES