Policy Guidance Tool

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Apps for Amsterdam

1. Introduction

Goals, results, timeframe, context and relevant actors.

Apps for Amsterdam is an initiative to make accessible as much data of the City of Amsterdam as possible. Developers were invited to send in their applications that use at least one available source of information of the (local) government. In a further stage, app developers are helped to prepare their apps for the market.

Governments as well as companies collect an enormous amount of information about our society, from criminal records to garbage collection routes, and from the quality of schools to traffic statistics. When this kind of information is available to developers to develop their applications upon, it is called Open Data. Open Data has a value and can stimulate economic growth; more importantly, society can make progress by using the available information. One condition for social innovation is that Open Data is accessible for all, is interpreted, combined and visualized in the right way. That is in everyone’s interest.

To stimulate the use of Open Data and to demonstrate the possibilities of applications based on Open Data, Apps for Amsterdam was born. The contest was in first instance modeled after the Apps for Democracy contest in Washington (US). Participants could win prizes to further develop their applications and make them suitable for a large audience.

Two contests were held in Amsterdam in 2011 and 2012. In the next phase in 2013, app makers were helped to turn their applications into a sustainable business.

2. Cluster connection

This paragraph is to determine whether the project is linked to a creative cluster in this region and whether there is a link with other clusters.

Is this case part of a cluster?


What type of cluster (digital, fashion, creative general etc), does the cluster consist of one type of (sub)sectors or is it heterogeneous?

The project ‘AppsforAmsterdam is part of the digital and creative cluster.

What actors does the cluster consist of?

The Amsterdam Innovation Motor coordinates both the creative and the ICT cluster. Both clusters consists not only of the several companies in the digital and creative industries, the schools, the branche organisations and the various service providers, but also the service providers related to the ict and the public organisations.

Who is responsible for this cluster? Is there a cluster organization?

The Amsterdam Innovation Motor (AIM) is the cluster organization. But Waag Society, and Municipality of Amsterdam Economic Affairs (EZ) are also responsible for the initiative. AIM is a triple helix organisation, funded by government, industry and knowledge institutes. It receives basic funding from its triple helix partners and acquires additional funding from all three levels including subsidies to execute projects.

Are there other strong clusters in the area/region, and if so: are there exchanges between the creative clusters and the others?

ICT, Life Sciences, Finances & Services, Food and Logistics are examples. The AppsforAmsterdam contest focuses on the societal relevant themes: Energy, Mobility, Tourism, Transparency & democracy, Empty offices and Safety. Within every theme creative app developers work very close to other city stakeholders, all part of a certain cluster. For example, for the development of mobility apps the creative, ICT and Logistic cluster work together.

3. Role of government

This paragraph is to determine the role of (local/regional/national) government and policy in this case.

How important is the role of the government in this case?

Very important. Data, that is currently owned by the government, should be used to create the app concepts. Because governmental organizations must provide the data first, and this is not easy.

What are the relevant policies that contribute to this case?

Open Data is crucial for app contests, any policies that stimulate the process of making data available contribute. In Amsterdam we launched several Open Data project that aims to support governmental organizations in this process. For example: explaining the relevance of data, stimulating the discussion, providing good practices, making an open data platform etc.

What are the policy instruments used?

See above

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.

The organization of the AppsforAmsterdam contest is funded and initiated by Department of Economic Affairs, The Amsterdam Innovation Motor and The Waag society. In close collaboration with Hack de Overheid. Prizes were available for the winning concepts. However, most effort is provided by the creative app developers themselves.

4. Role of private sector

This paragraph is to determine the role of private actors in this case.

In your case, what role(s) do private actors play and how important are they?

All participating app developers are private actors, they are the creative thinkers that add value to the development of successful city apps.

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.


5. Role of knowledge institutions

This paragraph is to determine the role of Knowledge Institutes (aka Schools, Universities etc) in this case.

Are knowledge institutions involved?

No direct participation by knowledge institutes.

If knowledge institutions are involved, please describe their contribution (including financial).


6. Successes and failures of the case

This paragraph is to determine what the success and fail factors are in your case. Please keep in mind that it is important for ECIA to find out whether it is context, financing, the various actors, change of policy etc.

Please describe the main success and fail factors, provide a clear description, limit the use of bullet points.

Based on the Apps for Amsterdam experience, 10 lessons learned were defined that are useful when designing an Apps contest.

1. Define the measure of success
In order to be able to measure the financial, economical and social impact of an ‘appscompetition’, it is important to define beforehand exactly what you want to know. This will help you keep track of the data before, during and after the competition.

2. Validate the Apps
Decide beforehand what you can offer the participants to keep them engaged and to help them further develop their Apps. Will it be a cash price or can you offer any additional form of support to continue with their Apps? Have a clear view on how you are going to validate the Apps after the competition ends.

3. Involve a media partner
Cooperate with a strong media partner to increase public awareness. Especially if Open Data is still a ‘new’ topic in your city. Involve media from the start onwards, not only at the end when the results are in.

4. Simplify voting for the public
Decide before the competition what the voting and rating procedures will be. If you want the public to vote, make sure you use one simple voting system. In case of a professional jury, ensure that contestants receive the jury’s feedback after the competition (jury report).

6. Go for high quality data
The quality of the submitted Apps is related to the quality of the data. Try to find the ‘killer data’, for instance real-time traffic data. Also consider the sustainability of the data; is the data only of use during the length of the competition, or will it still be available and updated afterwards? And under which conditions?

7. Have regular stakeholder meetings
Assemble a team of crucial stakeholders for your project team, key people from within the government and data evangelists from the developer communities. Schedule regular meetings to define a common vision on the contest and the continuation after the end of the competition.

8. Mobilise the community
Involve key players that have access to and are trusted by the developer community. Give developers the possibility to comment on the contest and ask questions by means of a forum or via e-mail. Also organize special ‘code’ events where developers can meet each other and data owners.

9. Timing & time span
When defining the date and time frame of the contest, consider public holidays and other important events. The best time is in spring or autumn, ending before or starting after the summer holiday. In order to keep the momentum of the contest, a time frame of 2 to 3 months is suggested, with one or two events in between to keep the community engaged.

10. Involve academia
Spread the word among high schools and universities also. Possibly, special courses about app development and open data are already available. If possible, organise workshops for this target group or offer a special price category for entries on concept level.

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7. Replication potential

This paragraph is to determine if this case could be copied by another region, country or even Europe.

Would it be possible to replicate this case in another region? If so, in which region?

Yes, because of the EU project Open Cities all tools and expertise is available for European cities. At the end of 2013 an open source version of the crowdsourcing platform should be available. Before doing it yourself, please explore the world of crowdsourcing by participating yourself. Many local and EU crowdsourcing initiatives exist.

What would be the conditions to do this?


8. Finance model

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.


If knowledge institutions are involved, please describe their contribution (including financial)


9. Contact

Gijs van Rijn, g.vanrijn [at] amecboard.com

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