Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. The first round of 2013, which opens in February, will invite innovators from all disciplines to focus on tools for open government. In 2012, three challenge rounds, each focused on an emerging trend, drew more than 2,500 entries.

Challenge 1 - on NETWORKS: Winners were announced June 18.

Challenge 2 - on DATA: Winners were announced Sept. 20.

Challenge 3 – on MOBILE: Winners were announced Jan. 17.

Anyone, anywhere can apply for the challenge - whether for-profit start-ups or non-profit ventures. For more information on a variety of topics - from guidelines for for-profits, on intellectual property licensing, open source software and more - visit our FAQ.

Louisiana Smart Grid

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

Louisiana Smart Grid is envisioned as a smart phone application to inventory, tag, map, and maintain utility infrastructure before a hurricane, and to track repairs after hurricanes.

2. How will your project use mobile tools and approaches? [2 sentences]

Coordinated volunteers throughout Louisiana will be tasked with a periodic survey of utility poles, lines, and tree-trimming needs, in the vicinity of their neighborhoods, capturing the latitude/longitude of poles, and tagging the poles with hardened QR codes to rapidly identify any asset requiring future maintenance issues. The application and an accompanying website will in turn report state-wide damage assessments from volunteers, track issues, and map the results so that residents know when power will be restored.

3. Who will use it and why? [1 sentence]

"Power of the people, to the people," would be an appropriate slogan for this app, which will overcome the opaque utility infrastructure maintenance, response, and communications track record of utility companies — as revealed every time there’s a tropical storm, and most apparently after Hurricane Isaac.

4. Please list three ways they would learn about your project.

1) In-person demonstrations to existing officials in neighborhood associations, political representatives, utility regulators, and press.
2) Regularly-scheduled social media updates, with links to existing solutions (and later, maps of surveyed infrastructure).
3) Colleges and high schools would be engaged, since a key ancillary goal of the project is to facilitate education and workforce development by teaching survey methods, application development, and utility transmission functions.

5. What connections have you made, or will you make, with others [communities, organizations or networks] about your project? [2 sentences]

None yet, as the inspiration for this project originated recently in the mis-managed communications strategy of Entergy officials to Hurricane Isaac. Nevertheless, a broad and deep network of associates will be expanded, using previous NolaStat advocacy supporters acquired over three-and-a-half years, and including neighborhood associations, college and high school volunteer coordinators, educators, the New Orleans City Council (and councils in other jurisdictions), the Louisiana Public Service Commission, and Entergy public relations officials.

6. What part of the project have you already built? [1-2 sentences, feel free to include links]

Nothing so far, but as the creator of the project, I bring 15 years of experience as a Geographic Information Systems developer and database programmer in southeast Louisiana, with a diverse professional background in crisis mapping after the BP oil spill, damage assessments and recovery after Katrina, demographics, crime mapping, and much more. I will seek the services of various other professional listed below to form a more complete team of expertise.

7. What does success for your project look like? [1-2 sentences]

The condition of every pole and line in every community in Louisiana will be on a web-based map within three years, with prototyping of at least one-half of the neighborhoods in Orleans to be completed by engaged, motivated volunteers at the end of one year under the current Knight Foundation grant request. Funding after year one would be sustained by securing tree-trimming and general maintenance monitoring contracts with energy utilities, and these funds would fulfill the larger goals of increasing education and workforce development training for (in particular) at-risk youth.

8. What resources do you need to succeed? [1-2 sentences]

People, volunteers, financial resources (to build the app & website), and yes, the vital clout to say that this idea is prominently backed by a Knight Foundation grant. A barebones team will require a Project Manager/Promoter (me), a Geographic Information Systems developer to build an open source Geoserver platform, a Database Developer to build data services, an App Developer(s) (Android & Apple) to realize the basic smart phone tools, a Graphic Designer to develop attractive branding, a Website Developer to produce a news/issue tracking/reporting site, and a Curriculum Developer to convert project goals into modules that can be easily inserted into existing curriculums without teachers doing anything extra.

Additional details:

Please list who is on your team:

Brian Denzer, Geographic Information Systems developer
Gerald McCollum, data services developer

To be determined by contract or volunteer outreach:
App Developer(s)
Graphic Designer
Website Developer
Curriculum Developer

Expected number of months to complete project:

New Orleans prototype: 1 year; Louisiana completion: 3 years.

Estimated Project Cost:

$150,000 in seed money for the prototype, with long-term sustaining financing to be sought from tree-trimming needs assessment contracts from energy utilities and the Louisiana Public Service Commission.


Brian Denzer



Email address:

Organization [if applicable]:

NolaStat (best-known for this advocacy project)


New Orleans, Louisiana


United States

How did you learn about the contest?

Previous Knight Foundation grant publicity

People Who Liked This Post

  1. Brian Denzer submitted this to newschallenge