Ottawa

Ottawa guide app wins city contest

A smartphone application that lets people learn about places and landmarks throughout Ottawa with the click of the phone's camera was the top prize winner at the city's Apps4Ottawa contest.

A smartphone application that lets people learn about places and landmarks throughout Ottawa with the click of the phone's camera was the top prize winner at the city's Apps4Ottawa contest.

Ekwa Jacob Duala-Ekoko's Ottawa Guide app took the best overall prize and tied with Jonathan Rudenberg's Where is my Bus? app for the People's Choice award at the event Tuesday evening.

Rick O'Connor, the chair of the judges panel, praised the winning application for its ease of use.

"[You] take a picture of a building with your smartphone — you don't know what this building is or you are a tourist — and it uses online sources like Wikipedia and other online sources to give you a background of what you are looking at, what the historical significance of it is and helps you decide whether you want to go in...or move on," said O'Connor.

Duala-Ekoko, a native of Cameroon, said he created the application based on his own experience of coming to Canada as an international student.

"When you come as a new person in a new city in a new country the challenge is you know very little about the community," said Duala-Ekoko.

"So I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people, OK if someone was to visit Ottawa for the first time...what would I want to know about Ottawa?"

Duala-Ekoko also took home the top prize in the Economic Development category, one of five theme categories in which gold, silver and bronze prizes were handed out. The other top prize winners in the categories were:

  • Alex deVries in the Community Building category for "Ottawa Biking Problems";
  • Alec Mills in the Green Environment/Sustainability category for "Collection Calendar";
  • Michael Russell in the Getting Around category for "Ottawa Enroute";
  • Tyler Pierce in the Having Fun in Ottawa category for "OttawaFun.ca". Pierce also won for the best student application.

The top prize in each category was $5,000.

'Where is My Bus?' wins popular support

Rudenberg's split with Duala-Ekoko in the People's Choice category is noteworthy because the judges panel shut him out of the top three prizes in the "Getting Around" category.

The Where is my Bus? app was at the centre of the city's controversial decision to pull GPS data for its buses after just a week. OC Transpo had made the data available as part of a pilot project, but suspended the project after Rudenberg had created an application which gave real-time updates for people waiting at bus stops. Whereismybus.ca racked up more than 2,500 hits during the one week it was live.

OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier said at the time the data was pulled because it wasn't accurate enough, but in a memo to the city's transportation committee, city staff also said the valuable data could be used to generate advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

That left some programmers questioning whether the city was committed to the principle of open data.

"OC Transpo seems more conservative, in the sense of fearful of change," said Carleton University researcher Tracey Lauriault, who specializes in access to data in Canada.

With files from the CBC's Evan Dyer, Giacomo Panico