Michael Wasser • about 9 years ago
Extension for all entrants?
Are there any circumstances under which the contest as a whole would be extended for all participants?
Given the objectives described in the document, "Replacing VA's Medical Scheduling Software and the Role of this Contest," and the current number of teams, it seems in the best interest of the VA to do so. A longer-term contest would allow the development of better-structured teams as well as more submissions. Given the very limited number of entrants (and followers) today and the complexity of the non-optional requirements, it would seem very difficult if not impossible to complete the current requirements and subsequently meet the VA’s goals.
In addition to the limited number of entrants, the number of entrants submitting applications in the last month suggests that many are only recently discovering this contest. My personal opinion is that the VA will miss the opportunity to receive submissions from teams that have the capability to exceed the requirements -- a two and a half month timeline is far too short a time to construct a team, evaluate requirements, and produce a solution that meets the minimum requirements. This is true even of the most capable teams out there.
I personally fear that this contest will be seen as an example to all other government agencies. Its success is critical to not just the VA but also to the US Government's ability to discover the capabilities of companies and individuals that currently do not consider working with government agencies. These entities, if investigated, would clearly exceed the needed capabilities for the projects. If the VA’s contest succeeds in it’s goals, I suspect other agencies may start similar contests using the VA’s as an example. If it fails, it will be cited as a reason not to release future contests.
This would appear to be the largest software-based contest on challenge.gov to-date, yet the number of teams competing and following the contest does not seem to be a reasonable pool given the magnitude of the award. By comparison, the Ansari X-Prize had 26 different teams competing for a $10M prize and their goal was to build a spaceship – an inherently more challenging task. This competition, being software-based, is much more approachable by a much larger talent pool in the US, yet there are only 17 teams today.
Why not extend the contest by 6 months? I’d also recommend the VA spend more time and energy marketing the contest to the potential entrants. It would seem that most capable entities do not know the contest exists today or have dismissed the contest as infeasible in a two and a half month timeline (despite capability and desire to meet the requirements). In addition, would an extended contest actually have much consequence to the VA? I personally feel there is a lot to be gained by not just the VA, but also the US government as a whole, in doing so.
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