White House Kicks Off Challenge.gov Anniversary with Wealth of New Prize Competitions

Audience at Challenge.gov 5-year anniversary event

In a call to action issued Oct. 7, the White House announced several new programs challenging citizens to help federal agencies solve problems in areas ranging from space exploration to education.

Hosted in conjunction with Georgetown University, the Case Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, the event featured activities and discussions aimed at creating more ambitious and effective cross-sector prize competitions.

Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation for White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), used the forum to issue a challenge of his own to the invite-only crowd, which consisted of prize experts from government, industry and academia.

Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council.

The country needs to use science, technology and innovation to tackle more societal issues such as educational challenges for low-income students and stagnant wages for workers with no college degree, Kalil said.

In all, the White House announced nine new federal challenges Oct. 7. Here’s a snapshot:

  • The Health Resources and Services Administration is kicking off a competition to address the “word gap” that occurs for low-income children due to limited early exposure to language.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey, with the assistance of the Department of Education, have teamed with the private sector to address nutrient pollution, continuing the work of a coalition of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is launching a competition for new strategies to “live off the land” when we explore new planets.
  • The Department of Education aims to help more students navigate their education and career options with technologies designed for its Reach Higher Career App Challenge.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation is fishing for new data tools to help protect and restore marine life ecosystems.
  • The National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office is announcing a new data prize to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
  • NASA is launching “Startup NASA,” a new initiative to encourage the use of federally funded technologies by start-up companies.
  • The National Institute of Justice is announcing the Gun Safety Technology Challenge.
  • The National Park Service will launch the Centennial Memorial Challenge.

A White House fact sheet also details several more challenges announced in the private sector.

The remarks come as White House OSTP today joined the General Services Administration (GSA) and agencies spanning government to celebrate five years of public-sector prize competitions and the Challenge.gov program.

GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth and Kalil headlined another impressive lineup of speakers who highlighted how challenges are transforming the way the government does business with the help and for the benefit of citizens.

From 1 to 5 p.m. today, GSA hosted agency officials and challenge winners to focus on the success and impact of prize competitions, provide learning opportunities for agencies and their representatives, and look ahead at the future of Challenge.gov.

Managed by GSA, Challenge.gov is both an official listing of challenges and competitions across government as well as a one-stop-shop for federal agencies to launch and manage problem-solving events aimed at addressing local, national and global issues.

Launched in 2010, and managed by GSA, Challenge.gov is a key component of the White House’s Strategy for American Innovation, which urges agencies to use incentivized competitions to drive innovation and advance their missions.

The event also featured the first-ever awards program to recognize individuals and teams for their work on some of the more audacious and powerful recent challenges issued by federal agencies.

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