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Why did they win? Selection Criteria for the 2015 Code for America Technology Awards

The winners of the Code for America Technology Awards were announced during the 2015 Code for America Summit. The Awards recognize outstanding tools and platforms that help government work better for the American people.

The $142 billion government technology market is opening to new vendors, new ways of contracting, and new approaches that improve the delivery of services to the public. The CfA Technology Awards are designed to acknowledge new entrants into the market who are making a difference and to encourage talented entrepreneurs to consider how they might also serve their country.

Among the awardees are:

  • Asheville NC’s SimpliCity: SimpliCity’s tagline is “city data simplified.” SimpliCity provides easy access to city data through a single search bar. The city implemented Lean Startup principles and usability testing with a customer focus to delight customers.
  • Code for Philly’s CyclePhilly Brigade Award: CyclePhilly is a smartphone app for recording bicycle trips. Data from the app can be used by regional transportation planners in the Philadelphia area to make Philly a better place to ride.
  • Nava: Nava’s and CMS’ App 2.0, which powers the majority of new healthcare.gov insurance applications, introduced a modern and streamlined user experience, fully responsive design, and uses scalable infrastructure.

The complete list of awardees is on the Awards site.

As Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America, said, “This diverse group of awardees deserves the attention of anyone who cares about our public sector working effectively for the American people in the 21st century. As governments struggle to meet the public’s needs in a digital era, the tools and platforms that public servants use must do a better job, and the marketplace for suppliers to government must change. These examples, which include the work of companies, public servants, and engaged citizens, set a higher bar for government technology to which the whole sector must aspire.”

Over the past few months CfA and the judges reviewed and discussed the nearly 150 applicants for the 2015 Awards. These conversations have allowed our organization to articulate what makes an ideal awardee.

The awardees productively contribute to the broader ecosystem of technology that is actively used by government and that aligns with our practices. We looked for examples of tools that help government deliver better outcomes; support government adopting new practices; and are built in a way that is consistent with CfA’s principles for 21st century government.

Is this a 21st century government technology?

When we selected the awardees we were looking for game-changing technology that provides a significant impact for the way that government operates and interacts with its citizens.

We’ve selected technologies that help government adopt the practices defined in the CfA 21st Century Government Practices. Not all principles are directly applicable to every product. However, for a technology to be selected for an Award, it should be exemplary in one or more areas and consistent with the overall spirit of the principles.

Designed for and with people

  • Does the product meet a well-articulated user need?
  • Does the product incorporate user feedback?
  • Is the product simple and easy to use?

Delivers a significant improvement in pricing and value

  • Does the product save user (government or citizen) time?
  • Does the user (government or citizen) benefit from economies of scale?
  • Is the product significantly cheaper and/or more effective than existing alternatives?

Enables data-driven government

  • Is data presented in a way that is clear, contextualized, and easy to understand?
  • Does the data facilitate more informed decision-making by government staff?

Uses and promotes open standards

  • Does the technology utilize open and standardized data formats?
  • Can a user export data easily and cheaply?

Leverages existing technology

  • Does the technology use open source components?
  • Does it build on or integrate with existing APIs or platforms?
  • Is it cloud-based?

The Awards

Watch Catherine Bracy and Tiffani Ashley Bell award the community projects built by CfA Brigades as well as products built in-house by governments that encode the practices of 21st century government.

The 2015 Technology Award Winners were selected by a panel of judges from both the tech and public sectors, including Tiffani Ashley Bell (Executive Director, Detroit Water Project), Ron Bouganim (Managing Partner, Govtech Fund), Aneesh Chopra (Co-Founder, Hunch Analytics and first-ever Chief Technology Officer of the United States), Christie George (Director, New Media Ventures), John Lyman (Head of Partnerships, Google for Entrepreneurs), Matt Mazzeo (Lowercase Capital), Beth Niblock (CIO, City of Detroit), and Tim O’Reilly (founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media). The complete list of judges is available on the

Awards site. Code for America was also pleased to partner with Google for Entrepreneurs on the Technology Awards.

We’re honored to have presented the 2015 Technology Awards to recognize products and tools that are helping government improve the digital delivery of services in the 21st century.

Watch all the main stage content, including other awards presentations, and find other Summit information on the #CfASummit site.