Posted May 27, 2009 by Lygeia Ricciard
Using contests to solve big problems is obviously not a new phenomenon, but it appears to be experiencing a resurgence, catalyzed by advances in information technology. Technology also lets groups collaborate better than ever before--and sometimes the line between competition and collaboration is fuzzy (the best solution to a given problem often “wins,” in that it is the one that gets adopted, but numerous people may help to evolve an idea or product through incremental changes).Expanded availability of broadband and better Internet interfaces on mobile phones have helped developments like blogs, wikis, and social networking to take off (Twitter grew 752% in 2008).
Though Brunelleschi had only one major competitor in his bid to cap off the Duomo, (artist Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was also from Florence), today contestants would likely come from around the world. Of course, the "wisdom of the crowd" is amplified in this century both by a greater number of people (over 6 billion) and higher rate of literacy--at least in most pockets of the world--than ever before in history.
The Pulse + Signal blog has a good post about the use of contests in the realm of health, especially public health. It highlights some examples, such as the Healthcare X PRIZE (a $10 million prize for ideas about how to reinvent healthcare) and also the recent DiabetesMine Design Challenge. Indeed there are numerous examples of “crowdsourcing” health ideas. A few others worth mentioning:
- The Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to engage the public in health reform
- Health-focused social communities, including whole sites (PatientsLikeMe) and parts of sites (WebMD Community)
- Open source health software development
- Open platform design, which will be an integral part of Project HealthDesign’s second phase of grants and is exemplified in the marketplace by the iPhone, HealthVault, Google Health, and Dossia