Can Apps Create Jobs and Optimize Civic Building?

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—In the growing field of civic apps, events like Saturday's NYC BigApps conference at New York Law School provide support and a spotlight for developers. As a deadline to submit a functioning app approached, graduate business student Yscaira Jimenez decided to apply some advice she had received from one of the experts on hand at the event.

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"Everything that doesn't work needs to go!" Jimenez told her teammates, who were working on an app to help people without college degrees find good entry-level jobs.

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The designers on Jimenez's three-person team managed to disable an errant profile tab and fix a geolocation feature in time. Their app, Plexx, won third place at a preliminary round of the NYC BigApps competition, which the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) co-sponsored.

"Not everyone in a low-income community has a computer at home or tablet," said NYCEDC's executive vice president Benjamin Branham. "But more and more people have smartphones. So if you can take some of the information that has traditionally been online–applying for a job, connecting to a career center, figuring out housing programs–and make those more smartphone app-friendly, you're suddenly reaching a demographic that might need them and utilize them in a much more robust way."

All the participants in Saturday's event (which organizers described as an "unconference," in the spirit of the National Day of Civic Hacking held the same weekend) will face off again in the final round of NYC BigApps. Winners of that round will be announced at the end of the month.

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