Government Apps Have Room To Grow, But Also Offer Great Potential
Ever since the launch of the Apple iTunes app store in 2008 and the Android store this year, apps have become a well-known feature of our lives. Countless experimental and highly targeted apps are launched everyday in the Apple and Android stores. Many of these are crafted purely for entertainment, but a large number are also created with the idea of collecting and analyzing information. Because they are accessible offline, apps are a valuable resource for businesses and entities, such as the government, to put to use.
The government currently has over 50 released apps, all of which provide services as varied as a baby name index (Baby Name Playroom) to one offering coaching to veterans when they have a post traumatic stress disorder attack (PTSD Coach). Though some question the actual number of downloads and efficacy of the apps†, others believe that mobile app development can greatly aid government departments, such as the Department of Public Transportation.‡
Meanwhile some state and city governments are creating apps to collect information and provide a means of communication in their regions. These apps allow citizens to report on potholes or graffiti they have come across in their neighborhoods. Other local governments are thinking on a larger scale and partnering with local tourism to enhance visitors’ experience, such as the Ski Utah Snow Report app with real-time news of snowfall and lift openings or closures alongside travel deals and local events.
Though not all federal and government apps are created well, the increasing popularity of smartphones and mobile devices as the less expensive alternative to desktop and laptop computers should remain under consideration by local and national government authorities. The potential for apps to both provide public services and collect data for use by government agencies is a win-win situation in the arena of public interaction— just ask the Singapore Police Force that has seen over 6000 downloads of its app Police@SG earlier this month. The app includes services like the latest crime news, police appeals for information and missing people information, and a location-based guide to the closest police station. Though many government apps may not yet be to this level, the potential is obviously there. For those individuals greatly invested in their communities, government apps could be a life-changing technological advance.