April 29, 2015 — For the first time in the history of NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, the agency selected a challenge based on the work of an Israeli scientist.

NASA, the U.S. federal space agency, sponsored the 4th Space Apps hackathon in April 2015. During the global competition, 12,780 participants developed 947 projects in 133 locations worldwide. The teams attempted to solve the 25 space challenges that NASA released on a special web site created for the competition (https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org).

Prof. Alon Peled, of the Department of Political Science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, developed a challenge based on his new book, Traversing Digital Babel – Information, E-Government, and Exchange, and on his Public Sector Information Exchange research project, one of the leading Hebrew University projects in the field of “Big Data.” The project is supported by a Google Faculty Research Award and received funding from Yissum, the technology transfer company of Hebrew University.

Forty-five software developers from the USA, Italy, Macedonia, Egypt, Tunisia, Slovenia, India and New Zealand labored to solve Prof. Peled’s challenge, which can be seen at https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org/challenge/data-treasure-hunting.

The software developers self-organized into sixteen software development teams and worked for 48 hours straight to develop different software solutions to the challenge. See https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org/project for more information about these sixteen teams and the software solutions they developed.

Prof. Peled explained: “The goal of this challenge was to find a way to transform NASA’s information assets so that they are easier to discover on the Web, so that citizens, entrepreneurs, and experts working in non-space domains can discover and use them. NASA receives the solutions developed during the competition and can then use these solutions to develop better keywords to tag the Big Data information assets that it develops and releases on the Web, for the benefit of all of humanity.”

Peled’s new book, Traversing Digital Babel – Information, E-Government, and Exchange, is published by MIT Press (see: http://scholars.huji.ac.il/traversingdigitalbabel). In it, Peled proposes a groundbreaking approach for enabling information sharing among public sector agencies, whose computer systems are notoriously complex. Peled offers solutions that could save governments billions of dollars, improve services to citizens, and even save lives. These include using selective incentives to “nudge” agencies to exchange information assets, and the establishment of a Public Sector Information Exchange (PSIE), through which agencies would trade information.