The GSA Travel Data Challenge is certainly “novel” as Jay Boehmer relates in his recent blog post on The Beat.
As Boehmer notes, “The U.S. General Services Administration this week kicked off what it called a ‘first-of-its-kind, public prize competition’ that solicits tech developers to design travel data analysis software that would help federal agencies better manage spend.”
What is interesting about the contest is that there are commercial applications that exist today which provide exactly the scope and requirements of the contest. However, it is unlikely that any of the commercial providers will participate since the contest stipulates that the contest winners will grant to the Federal Government “a perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use any and all intellectual property….” The contest winners are free to sell their solution to the commercial market and all other government entities.
On the surface this seems a rather clever way to acquire a low-cost solution to a vexing problem. However, the Federal Government will need to adapt the solution to different travel data sources in use, maintain the solution, take responsibility for enhancing it, and otherwise replicate what commercial software vendors do every day. Unfortunately, this approach could cost the Federal Government more in the long run than simply leveraging one of the many commercially available solutions for optimizing travel spending.