US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson (pictured above) announced the Apps for the Environment Challenge on June 9–and almost five months to the day, the winners were announced at a forum at the Artisphere in Arlington, Va. The winner of the best overall app was the Light Bulb Finder developed by Andrea Nyland of the Eco Hatchery which helps consumers select and buy-online light bulbs that are more energy efficient while still providing the desired brightness.

Master of ceremonies Chris Dorobek welcomed a capacity crowd to the Artisphere and said that in a time when many are very dissatisfied with government, this event showed why we should like government.

US EPA CIO Malcolm Jackson declared this activity to be very successful because it provided over 100 suggestions and 38 applications. US Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley said this showed how to put government information into people’s hands in a way that they can use it.

US Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra keynoted the event by describing the successful launch recently by President Obama of a new online search tool that aggregates job listings for veterans from various websites and other online resources as part of an ongoing effort to help out-of-work veterans find employment.

The Veterans Job Bank provides a widget with a search window veterans can use to browse job postings from a host of sources around the Web, including online job boards, social-media sites, and corporate employment sites, according to a White House blog post by Aneesh Chopra. The tool combines Google Custom Search with custom code–namely,’s JobPosting Markup–that is posted on sites that list job openings, particularly those prioritized for veterans. More than 577,000 jobs were tagged in less than 90 days.

Google’s custom search team worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the search tool. is a collaboration between Microsoft Bing, Google, and Yahoo search engines aimed at making structured data on the Web easier to find. The author has talked about the value of to semantic search in previous articles.

Aneesh Chopra commended the US EPA for its app contest and announced the US Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Data Access Challenge aimed at eventually lowering citizen’s utility bills by analyzing real-time power consumption data at individual residences in pilot cities.

A panel on business, technology, and user perspectives moderated by Alex Howard of O’Reilly Media discussed how to foster a sustainable ecosystem of data providers, developers, and media analysts. The consensus seemed to be among the panelists that a more sustainable and faster innovation model must be found than individual contests that take months and only provide recognition to one or a few winners (no money).

The Smart Grid Data Access Challenge offers substantial cash prize but requires a considerable up front investment of time and money by the developer community.

The author suggested in a comment to the panel that the government needs to foster a much broader ecosystem of apps so it can get to the iPhone App Store – type critical mass that has made it wildly successful.

The iPhone App Store learned from the 1990’s lesson from conventional software development that it is difficult to demonstrate a return on investment from individual software development projects, except when you get a number of projects to collaborate and make them interoperable and reusable components.

Let’s hope that the government could foster a more sustainable and faster innovation model. The author’s submission to the EPA Apps for Environment Challenge was actually just that, more than 50 individual apps provided together in a data science library.