Software development

GSA offers prizes for travel data tool

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The General Services Administration is crowdsourcing ideas for digital tools that will help agencies better manage travel costs.

The agency's public software development competition, launched on Feb. 14, offers $35,000 in prize money for the most innovative and useful tool. The runner-up will receive $30,000, and an honorable mention position offers a $25,000 prize. The contest runs through April 11.

In a Feb. 18 post on GSA's website, Anne Rung, associate administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said GSA was looking for "cutting-edge software design that enhances transparency and helps hold agencies accountable on travel spending, while also providing federal agencies with the best recommendations on how to reduce travel costs."

The Travel Data Challenge seeks technology-driven tools that can aggregate, synthesize and display GSA's travel data in easy-to-understand ways and help drive cost savings. Ultimately, GSA wants other federal agencies to use the tool to identify their own cost-cutting opportunities.

GSA said it would make sample datasets available to contest competitors. It also noted that the tool is not intended to publicly display any agency's data and that information would be protected behind certified username and password protections.

The key to the competition is creating a unique tool that agencies can use to visualize their travel spending with accompanying references on how those costs could be reduced. Innovation is the watchword. "GSA does not want an analysis tool that tells what is already known," according to a statement on the project's web page.

A second part of the challenge asks the public to find and identify gaps in how travel data is collected by the federal government, with recommendations on how to close those gaps and fine-tune how federal travel data is collected.

That might include additional data elements that would lead to greater transparency in federal spending.

"The ultimate goal of the tool is to help federal agencies drive cost-saving behaviors in travel through easy-to-understand information," Rung wrote in her blog post.

Submissions will be judged against the following criteria:

  • The tool must be online and interactive, and meet GSA's goals and objectives.
  • It must be based on open-source code.
  • Documentation of all data sources used must be included.
  • Descriptions of how the tool can be updated with additional data from other agencies must be included.
  • Recommendations to enhance government insights through improvements in data collection must be provided.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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