US Gov asks citizens for help on new website

Barack Obama is to offer cash awards of up to £10 million to citizens who can solve the problems facing US government departments.

In a consultation exercise strikingly similar to that made (and then ignored) by the UK coalition government, his administration is crowd-sourcing ideas for government policy from the public.

It has gathered together a list of 35 key difficulties facing the country on its newly launched website, www.challenge.gov.

Visitors are asked to contribute bright ideas on topics as diverse as helping forensic scientists solve difficult cases to improving the eating habits of school-age kids.

Awards of up to $2,500 will be available for the most ingenious answers to questions such as "How can I become president when I grow up?" - the challenge set by the Obama administration to under-18s.

There's help sought on the environment, too: budding inventors are being offered a whopping $10 million bounty to create a car that can do more than 100 miles to the gallon.

US Chief Technology Officer Annesh Chopra said that by going into the process in an open-minded way, the government hoped to boost the range of responses it received.

"Challenge.gov marks a dramatic departure from business as usual," she said.