The state of Illinois has launched a new technology challenged aimed at helping local governments expand the amount of data available to the public. The Illinois Open Technology Challenge is a pilot initiative that will make Illinois’ open data platform, Data.Illinois.Gov, available to municipal governments statewide. The challenge will launch in the pilot communities of Belleville, Champaign, Rockford, and Chicago’s South Suburbs, and will promote the availability of public data and encourage the use of technology to address government challenges through innovation and entrepreneurship. The challenge comes after announcements earlier this month pushing the Chicago metro area toward its goal of becoming an technology hub.

The initiative, ILOpenTech seeks to build on the state’s leadership role around open data and Governor Quinn’s recently issued Executive Order establishing a new state Open Operating Standard. The state’s support of 2011’s Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois competition produced winners like iFindit, an innovative application that provides information on food, housing and medical care to the homeless and OkCopay, which is a directory of affordable medical care for those without insurance. The initiative brings together local governments with developers, area universities, nonprofits and community leaders in a common mission to use public data to create digital tools that serve civic needs and promote economic development across Illinois.

The competition will include at least $75,000 in prize funding, which will be awarded to Illinois’ most innovative developers who solve a digital problem in one of the four pilot communities. An additional prize will be awarded to the developer of the strongest application with a statewide purpose. A demonstration day and the announcement of prize winners are anticipated in early 2013.

The State of Illinois Open Data site, Data.Illinois.Gov, is a searchable clearinghouse of information from state agencies that is helping inform residents about the operation of state government and encouraging the creative use of state information, including the development of applications for mobile devices that can be built around the data. This site, which the governor launched in June 2011, now contains more than 6,500 data sets. Sponsors of the Illinois Open Technology Challenge include the Chicago Community Trust, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Google, and the Motorola Mobility Foundation. Additional support is being provided by Comcast. Administrative support for the project is provided by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and Smart Chicago Collaborative.

“The Illinois Open Technology Challenge will help to make better connections across our community in leveraging the tremendous tech talent here to better understand what applications and will best serve civic needs,” said Champaign Mayor Don Gerard. “We are thrilled to join in this effort to advance the open data movement.”