Today, in conjunction with the newly-launched BusinessUSA initiative , the Department of Commerce announced the launch of their business app challenge . The $10,000 contest challenges app developers to find innovative ways to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. The business app challenge calls on developers to utilize at least one Department of Commerce data set in creating an application that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of Business.USA.gov to the business community. Developers may choose the platform that best suits them. Applicants may design for the web, personal computer, mobile handheld device, or any platform broadly accessible to the open Internet. A list of developer-friendly data sets can be found on the Business Data and Tools page  of Data.gov.
A panel of high-profile judges will evaluate and vote on the entries. The panel includes:
- John Bryson , Secretary of Commerce
- Vint Cerf , Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
- Vivek Kundra , Executive Vice President of Emerging Market, Salesforce.com
- Tim O’Reilly , founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media
- Sheryl Sandberg , Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
- Steven Van Roekel , Federal CIO
Specifically developers are being challenged to look for innovative ways to utilize available data to help businesses:
- Learn about and evaluate opportunities, both here in the U.S. and internationally;
- Access useful government services, data, and market information;
- Fund business activities;
- Support education and training, and
- Facilitate or accelerate the pursuit of operating and growing their business.
A $5,000 cash award will be given to the winner. Second place will receive $3,000 and third place will receive $2,000. Submissions will be accepted between February 22, 2012 and April 30, 2012. Complete contest rules and entry requirements can be found at http://docbusinessapps.challenge.gov. 
This post originally appeared on The Commerce Blog , the U.S. Department of Commerce's official blog.