White House app challenge encourages women in government

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As part of a recently-announced app challenge, the White House wants developers to leverage technology in a way that encourages young women to work in government. The competition asks developers to create an app that promotes civic education and "inspires girls to serve as leaders in our democracy."

Apps in the competition may be designed for smartphones, feature phones, or other formats such as traditional browsers. Challenge organizers encourage developers to be creative when it comes to format--they can be interactive and informative games or data visualizations, for example. One clear requirement, however, is that all apps meet or exceed Section 508 usability standards.

According to the competition page, apps should accomplish one or more of the following objectives:

  • Educate girls on the gender gap in public leadership;
  • connect girls with role models;
  • teach girls about leadership;
  • encourage girls to engage with elected leaders; or
  • prepare girls to serve as elected leaders.

The app stems from a United Nations commitment the Obama administration made to explore new avenues for politically and economically empowering women, write Sarah Hurwitz, a senior advisor to the Council on Women and Girls, and Brian Forde, a senior advisor to the federal chief technology officer, in a Nov. 27 White House blog post.

The blog post includes ideas and guidance from girls on what they'd like the app to include. For example, 17-year-old Jennifer Nguyen suggests a mobile app--complete with a diagram--outline the process of running for office, with details on qualifications and necessary paperwork. Girls would also benefit, says Nguyen, from an app that provides information on what makes a great leader. This feature could offer tips for mustering confidence and speaking eloquently, she says.

Developers have until Jan. 12, 2012 to submit their apps and the winners will be announced Feb. 4, according to the challenge website. Judges of the app contest include the chief executive of Girl Scouts of America and senior leadership from Twitter and Facebook, say Hurwitz and Forde.

For more:
- go to the app challenge page
- read the White House blog post

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