Government crowdsourcing

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Many different organizations apply crowdsourcing to gather and assess information. In many countries, the imperative to include more voices and public participation has created a demand for Governments to reach out and leverage citizen knowledge and energy through crowdsourcing, as a form of e-Government. Similarly, [1] some have advocated for crowdsourcing within government, to better leverage the existing talent base.

Take for example, in the US, the call for Government 2.0 has led many organizations to create interactive networks with constituents to both influence policy and to change information. This article outlines some examples of Government crowd-sourcing in different contexts.


The use of crowdmapping by authorities can improve situational awareness during an incident such as wars, pandemics, humanitarian crises, crime, elections, or natural disasters and be used to support incident response.[1]

United States Federal Government

Department of State

The Virtual Student Foreign Service is a crowd-work and eIntern program for college students.[2]

The Office of eDiplomacy is developing an internal crowdsourcing platform called CrowdWork that will facilitate collaborative work worldwide. Any office or mission will be able to post tasks online and any State Department employee with the requisite skills will be able to respond and complete the task. This creates an internal marketplace for foreign affairs work and matches State Department opportunities and requirements with untapped skills and experience. The platform is currently under development with an anticipated launch in December 2013. This crowd-work platform will be developed as part of an innovation toolkit for the U.S. Government.[3] This project is developed through a partnership between the State Department office of eDiplomacy,[4] the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the General Services Administration and the State Department Office of the Director General. The crowdwork element of the innovation toolkit will be developed as an open source platform for public use.[5]

The State Department Sounding Board is an internal ideation tool for employees to suggest improvements to the Department.

The Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU),[6] a division within the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues at the U.S. Department of State, is working to increase the availability of spatial data in areas experiencing humanitarian emergencies. Built from a crowdsourcing model, the new "Imagery to the Crowd" process publishes high-resolution commercial satellite imagery, purchased by the United States Government, in a web-based format that can be easily mapped by volunteers.[7] The digital map data generated by the volunteers are stored in a database maintained by OpenStreetMap (OSM), a UK-registered non-profit foundation, under a license that ensures the data are freely available and open for a range of uses.

Inspired by the success of the OSM mapping effort after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Imagery to the Crowd process harnesses the combined power of satellite imagery and the volunteer mapping community to help aid agencies provide informed and effective humanitarian assistance, and plan recovery and development activities. The HIU partners with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) on many of the Imagery to the Crowd projects. HOT provides volunteer support and access to its micro-tasking platform, the OSM Tasking Manager, which coordinates volunteer efforts by breaking down large mapping tasks into smaller areas that can be digitized in 45–60 minutes. A 5-minute Imagery to the Crowd Ignite talk is available.[8]

The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs partnered with RocketHub on the Alumni Engagement and Innovation Fund (AEIF) 2.0 which helps exchange program alumni crowdsource funding for their innovative projects.

The Special Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies created Diplomacy Lab as a way for the Department to crowdsource longer term projects from the academic community.

Human Resource's Flex Connect program facilitates crowdsourcing of talent from across the Department.

eDiplomacy is also piloting a State Department GitHub Account to collaborate on open source software projects.

The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance also ran a crowdsourced Arms Control Challenge examining how technology could aid arms control efforts.


In June 2012, USAID launched the Agency's first-ever crowdsourcing initiative to pinpoint the location of USAID Development Credit Authority (DCA) loan data and make the dataset publicly available. Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving process whereby tasks are outsourced to a network of people known as "the crowd".

The engagement of the Crowd was an innovative way to process data and increase the transparency of the Agency. Visualizing where USAID enhances the capacity of the private sector can signal new areas for potential collaboration with host countries, researchers, development organizations, and the public. A case study explains the organizational, legal, and technical steps behind making these data open.[9]

Department of Health and Human Services

CDCology[10] is a way for CDC staff to post unclassified, one-minute to one-day long (micro)tasks that can be solved by undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate student volunteers. This expands the agency's workforce and relieves staff to focus on in-depth assignments. In return, universities can offer students short challenges directly impacting national initiatives and gain experience with government work. This allows students to bring fresh ideas to smaller projects and they can add "micro-volunteering for CDC" to their résumé.[11]

Environmental Protection Agency

Pilot project launched by the Administrator's office called Skills Marketplace allowing micro-details to other offices and projects.[12]

General Services Administration

Part of GSA's Digital Services Innovation Center, Open Opportunities include micro/macro-tasking, 20% details and full-time detail opportunities for GSA employees within GSA. is an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in partnership with ChallengePost that empowers the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges. This platform is the latest milestone in the Administration's commitment to use prizes and challenges to promote innovation.[13]

Transportation Security Administration

Idea Factory empowers the Transportation Security Administration's large and dispersed workforce to submit and collaborate on innovative ideas to improve TSA and keep the nation's transportation systems secure.[14]

Smithsonian Institution

Digital Volunteers is a crowd-work platform for transcribing historical documents.[15]

eMammal is a crowdsourcing collection of images and data on N American mammal populations[16] [17]

National Archives

The National Archives uses digital volunteers to identify signatures in documents and index the archive.[18]

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Remember Me is a project to post 1100 pictures of children displaced during the Jewish Holocaust to identify these children, piece together information about their wartime and postwar experiences, and facilitate renewed connections among these young survivors, their families, and other individuals who were involved in their care during and after the war.[19]

The World Memory Project aims to digitize the records of victims of the Jewish Holocaust.[20]

US Army

CoCreate is a crowdsourced effort to identify and solve real life soldier challenges.

US Navy

The US Navy crowdsourced solutions to Somali Piracy via its Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet.[21] It is a message-based game to encourage innovative thinking by many people, connected via the Web. It has been used to study a number of topics, such as how the Navy can prepare for the future of energy......starting in 2021 and beyond

United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been working to integrate crowdsourcing into the patent process in a number of ways. The first key step was the introduction of the Peer to Patent program at the application review stage. Peer to Patent was designed to allow members of the public with relevant technical skills and information to submit information useful to the patent examiner when assessing the claims of pending patent applications. The first pilot Peer to Patent program, limited to software and business methods applications, was launched in 2007 and remained open through 2009.[22] After reviewing the results, a second expanded pilot was launched in 2010, extending coverage to include biotechnology, bioinformatics, telecommunications, and speech recognition.[23]

The USPTO was further encouraged to implement crowdsourcing by the Obama Administration’s Executive Action on Crowdsourcing Prior Art.[24] The order was created with the goal of improving patent quality overall and fostering innovation by integrating new ways for companies, experts, and the general public to find and submit “prior art” or evidence needed to ascertain if an invention is novel.[25]

Having tested crowdsourcing during the application review process, the USPTO turned to explore applications for crowdsourcing during post-grant patent review. To do this, the USPTO consulted experts in the government and private sector to share their expertise through two roundtable discussions. The Roundtable on the Use of Crowdsourcing and Third-Party Preissuance Submissions to Identify Relevant Prior Art, took place April 10, 2014. Presenters at the roundtable included Andrea Casillas and Christopher Wong sharing their experience with Peer to Patent; Micah Siegel from Ask Patents, a patent crowdsourcing project through stack exchange; Pedram Sameni from Patexia, a crowdsourcing platform focused on patent research and prior art searching; and Cheryl Milone of Article One Partners.[26]

The USPTO held their second roundtable on the use of crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art on December 2, 2014. This roundtable focused on two key questions: (1) how the USPTO can utilize crowdsourcing tools to obtain relevant prior art in order to enhance the quality of examination and issued patents; and (2) ways the USPTO can leverage existing private sector solutions for the electronic receipt and hosting of crowdsourced materials as a means to provide prior art to examiners.[27] Speakers at the roundtable included Matt Levy (Computer & Communications Industry Association), Mark Nowotarski (Markets, Patents & Alliances LLC), Cheryl Milone (Article One Partners), and Pedram Sameni (Patexia Inc.).

The USPTO continues to consider additional applications for crowdsourcing following the roundtables and public comments submitted in response. As part of that goal, they are working with Christopher Wong, who was appointed to be the Presidential Innovation Fellow supporting crowdsourcing and patent reform initiatives for the USPTO.[28]

United Kingdom

National Health Service

The Patient Feedback Challenge is about getting the NHS to use feedback from patients to improve services, by spreading the best approaches already out there. Ideas are crowdsourced, and then bid on by NHS organizations.[29]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Since 2010 the FCO has made the Human Rights and Democracy Report available online and available for markup by NGOs, policy makers, academics and the general public. The comments are forwarded to the relevant policy teams for evaluation and to respond to accordingly.[30]


This article incorporates public domain material published by the US Government
  1. ^ "Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report" (PDF). Public Health England. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  2. ^ "VSFS Microvolunteering, powered by Sparked". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  3. ^ White House Presidential Innovation Fellows Innovation Toolkit
  4. ^ "IRM's Office of eDiplomacy". 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  5. ^ "midas open-source collaboration platform". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "ICCM 2012: Josh Campbell, Imagery to the Crowd". YouTube. 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  9. ^ "DCA Data Cleanup Crowdwork Project". 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  10. ^ "CDCology:". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  11. ^ CDC crowd-work and eIntern Program: Archived October 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "EPA, HUD search for ways to keep mid-career feds". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  14. ^ "Idea Factory". Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  15. ^ "Digital Volunteers". 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  16. ^ Allegretti, Adrienne (2013-01-11). "eMammal - A Citizen Scientist Camera Trapping Project". Blue Raster. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  17. ^ "EMammal". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  18. ^ "NARA crowdsourcing". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  19. ^ "Remember Me". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  20. ^ "World Memory Project". World Memory Project. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  21. ^ "Us Navy Mmowli". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  22. ^ Hagel, John; Brown, John Seely (2009-03-18). "Peer-to-Patent: A System for Increasing Transparency". BusinessWeek: innovation_and_design. Archived from the original on 2015-10-21. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  23. ^ Officer, Office of the Chief Communications. "USPTO Launches Second Peer To Patent Pilot in Collaboration with New York Law School". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  24. ^ Patents. "USPTO-led Executive Actions on High Tech Patent Issues". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  25. ^ "FACT SHEET - Executive Actions: Answering the President's Call to Strengthen Our Patent System and Foster Innovation". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  26. ^ announcements, patent. "Roundtable on the Use of Crowdsourcing and Third-Party Preissuance Submissions to Identify Relevant Prior Art". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  27. ^ Patents. "Roundtable on USPTO Use of Crowdsourcing to Identify Relevant Prior Art". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  28. ^ "Meet the Fellows | Presidential Innovation Fellows". Presidential Innovation Fellows. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  29. ^ Comments (1) (2012-09-03). "Patient Feedback Challenge: Project Communities". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  30. ^ Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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