Open-source software for the federal government’s crowdsourcing platform

The federal government invites everyday citizens to be part of the innovation and problem-solving process through Challenge.Gov.

Challenge.Gov crowdsources ideas and solutions from the public. The site, maintained and run by the General Services Administration, furthers the mission of “delivering value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across government.”

Within Challenge.Gov, government agencies post challenges the general public can respond to help solve problems big and small. Citizens can also submit ideas and solutions for challenges across the federal government.

Examples of prize competitions on Challenge.Gov include the HHS Racial Equity in Postpartum Care Challenge and the 2022 FAA Challenge: Smart Connected Aviation Student Competition.

When GSA developed a new platform for Challenge.Gov with Fearless and SmartLogic, officials wanted the technology to be accessible and open to the public, like the challenges they host for the federal government.

In alignment with the Federal Source Code Policy, we were committed to making the custom source code of Challenge.Gov broadly available for any federal agency to use. Challenge.Gov is a portal for the public to engage with the government to solve problems.  In many ways we help agencies open the door for collaboration with the public.  Being open source was a foundational requirement that made perfect sense.

The  open-source data portal on the new Challenge.Gov replaces a static web page system where the Challenge.Gov previously team worked with sponsoring agencies to draft a post sharing individual challenge details. Federal agencies now have a simplified process for uploading content and challenges for the public to respond to.

The bones of the Challenge.Gov data portal are built on another open-source project Fearless and SmartLogic teamed up on: Hack Baltimore.

Hack Baltimore supports community engagement through crowdsourcing ideas and solutions using challenge portals. The initiative brings together the city’s extensive community of civic-focused non-profits, companies, community associations, makerspaces, and government agencies to harness resources to hack the city’s biggest problems.

“The mission of both Hack Baltimore and is powerful work that impacts both community engagement and involvement,” said Fearless Portfolio Director Julia Ward. “That’s why it was so important that Fearless and SmartLogic team up to expand our knowledge from Hack Baltimore to influence

Using the base of Hack Baltimore’s Elixir code, the team was able to build a Challenge.Gov platform that stands on its own but has the same spirit of openness as the Hack Baltimore portal.

“What’s been great for us is that GSA and specifically Technology Transformation Services (TTS) within GSA is a naturally collaborative and future-thinking organization to be a part of,” said Smartlogic Dir. of Engineering Dan Ivovich. “We’re connecting with a lot of other TTS systems, like,, and and leveraging those tools to create a really integrated, modern experience with the new Elixir-based Challenge.Gov application.”

SmartLogic’s development team was also excited to work on this project, both because of the potential impact of the modernized system for internal and external users, and also because of the opportunity to contribute a high-visibility open-source project to the community.

The Challenge.Gov team is already seeing interest in the publicly available project code on Github, with an individual already pulling the code for themselves. Ivovich says Elixir is a robust and scalable, however uncommon programming language for a government project and he expects more people to explore the project in upcoming months.

Perhaps the next government innovation will be born out of this open-source project.

This announcement was published independently of the General Services Administration. This release does not constitute or imply an endorsement by GSA or the United States Government of the product, process, or service, or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced documents do not necessarily state or reflect those of the GSA or the United States Government.

This post was originally published by Fearless on 12/7/2021.

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