GSA Launches 'First-Of-Its-Kind' Competition For Travel Analysis Tech

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.

Instead of just another formal request filed in the Federal Business Opportunities site, the database for federal procurement contracting opportunities, GSA's Travel Data Challenge is a novel effort that promises cash prizes to developers of the best concepts for "an online, interactive tool that utilizes federal travel data to increase transparency and accountability."

Submissions, required to be written in open source code, are due by April 11, with winners announced May 9.

First place gets $35,000, with a 
$30,000 award for the runner-up and 
$25,000 for an "honorable mention," but GSA noted that it "is not required to award all three prizes if the judges determine that only one or two entries meet the scope and requirements."

GSA expressed hopes that the contest will attract some fresh thinking "from the public and industry alike."

GSA, which oversees travel programs for civilian agencies, wants a tool that will use federal travel data to "show agencies where and how they can save money on federal travel" and provides federal travel managers "visibility into their travel spending and recommendations for cost-savings behaviors."

Submissions should "visually display data in a way that will show agencies how and where they are spending money on travel" and also show "primary categories or cost drivers that can enable federal agencies to reduce and/or contain official travel costs compared to appropriate benchmarks."

Among behaviors GSA suggested developers explore are advance airfare purchases and their impact on costs, traveler use of such GSA programs as FedRooms (a booking portal for federal room rates), and the costs and opportunities associated with online versus offline transactions.

GSA wants software that shows agencies how much could be saved "if they adjusted one or a set of cost-driving behaviors, such as time of year of travel, booking online, travel to certain cities during certain times [and] booking in advance."

Contestants should "identify specific gaps in the travel data collected by the government, and to provide recommendations for how the government can improve insights into federal travel spending through additional data collection," according to GSA's call for submissions. GSA did not immediately reply to a request to discuss the initiative.

Through the contest, GSA will furnish participants with "sample data sets," based on federal travel data, but also encouraged developers to tap into "any other publicly available data sets" to enhance analysis.

Six federal officials will judge entries, and former Sabre CEO Sam Gilliland will serve as technical adviser to judges.

In exchange for the cash prize, winners "grant to GSA a perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use any and all intellectual property to the winning entry for any governmental purpose, including the right to permit such use by any other agency or agencies of the Federal Government," according to GSA. "All other rights of the winning entrant will be retained by the winner of the competition."