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How Dirty Water Became Hip

National Tech

Yucky water isn’t exactly what you’d think of as the main ingredient in anything cutting edge. But it was for a contest held yesterday in DC to find the most innovative use of tech in government. 


EPA’s How’s My Waterway app was deemed the most innovative use of IT by government at yesterday’s first-ever ACT-IAC Ignite Innovation contest. EPA's Doug Norton says it lets users find out the water quality of nearby waterways and what’s being done by EPA to clean up the more troublesome ones. The app, out since October ’12, was praised for taking highly technical environmental info and making it understandable to the general public. A new version is being developed with the Smithsonian and NOAA.


It was on this showcase floor that 30 government innovations jockeyed for one of eight slots. Attendees, who were mostly part of the government IT industry, voted on the best projects on a crowdsourcing mobile app. The eight then gave five-minute pitches to judges that included AT&T’s Kay Kapoor and GSA’s Dave McClure. (Kinda sounds like those crazy pitch events that the startup kids hold.)


ACT-IAC, whose innovation team is chaired by AT&T government solutions tech VP Chris Smith, has been working on a contest to find the government’s most innovative use of technology for the last year. Some of the finalists included the Patient Buddy Mobile Health app, which cuts down on hospital re-admissions by keeping patients and healthcare in touch electronically. GSA also demo’d its cloud agile application platform, which cleaned up and replaced old applications and cut costs by $10M. DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol is moving from fingerprint identification to the more reliable and unchanging iris. (Apparently fingerprints can change over time.)