Today I had the great pleasure of sitting in a room--a small room--with the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, as he announced a new project in collaboration with the Knight Foundation: Apps for Communities. This exciting new venture will put $100k of prizes in the hands of folks who dream up creative and useful ways to capitalize on existing public data and connect local folks to local data that solves local issues.
While Chairman Genachowski likely didn't have librarians in mind when nurturing this idea with the Knight Foundation, my first thought was: librarians! You might be thinking, "but I'm not a coder," and that may be true, but you have ideas. And you know your community. And you're crafty, innovative, and smart. What does your community need?
From the FCC:
This challenge is an effort to drive the great technical skills we have in our country out into our local communities. A particular goal is to build new applications to improve access for people who struggle with accessing information and services online: Seniors, non-English speakers, people who are uncomfortable with technology, and others. This contest seeks to bring the value of broadband to people who are, up until now, less likely to be online."
These people are in your library, using your library's services. What do they need? Do they need access to information during a disaster? Do they need to know where urgent care facilities exist and how to get there by public transportation? These were just two ideas shared during the press conference and discussion, but you likely have better, more focused ideas because you know the patrons who walk through your doors.
But what to do with your idea? Well, here's an idea:
One of TechSoup's projects, NetSquared, holds monthly offline events for anyone interested in technology and social impact. These local gatherings are an opportunity to share ideas, learn from one another, and collaborate on projects to create real world impact. What's more, they take place in 80 cities around the world, and if one doesn't exist near you, you can start on AT YOUR LIBRARY! How cool is that? Perhaps this FCC/Knight Foundation challenge is just the venue for you to share your idea with folks who could really make it happen. Try it. Or let me know why not. Or share your idea in the comments. Or just plain get in touch.