The White House hopes the application-developer community will answer its call for help in preventing sexual assault and dating violence.
Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced such a technology challenge to the development community today. Both have been advocates for the prevention of sexual assault and dating violence among young adults.
The challenge is part of the broader use of technology by the White House to get the public involved with larger government issues. White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said there are 80 such challenges on the Web site Challenge.gov, though this will be the first such challenge issued by Vice President Biden.
"Because of the breadth of these challenges across the administration, there is an evolving developer community that engages on these issues," Chopra said in an interview with CNET. "I'm really excited about the possibilities that can come out of this."
Once the challenge is announced, developers have until October 17 to submit their application. A winner will be announced later that month to coincide with the observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and would be recognized publicly.
There are no restrictions on the type of application or what platform it should run on, though Todd Park, chief technology officer for the Health and Human Services Department, said broad use would be a factor in the decision, suggesting an iOS or Android app would likely be chosen.
While Park remained open on the submission, he said the winning app would help prevent assault, rather than be a tool for people who have already experienced violence.
"The winning application will tap into that desire to stand up and help people," Park said.
The need is real. Women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of rape and sexual assault, and Park said the number of young adults experiencing such crimes is rising despite a general decline in violence. One in five young women will be a victim of sexual assault in college, according to a statement from the Health and Human Services Department.
Chopra said that ideally the app should make use of social networks and communication between a user's circle of trusted friends.
"We're hoping for some creative approaches," he said.