Gov Apps? Where are they?

In previous posts, I have talked about what Government as a Platform (GaaP) is all about: government agencies not only providing web applications specific to their mission but also services on which citizens and organizations can build applications of their own for the benefit of other citizens and the community. It’s the apps that provide the value; GaaP is just an enabler.

So who’s developing such apps and for what purposes? Herein is a sampling of government-open-data apps that have been developed and, in many cases, available for your use.

USA.gov – The US Federal Government publishes a list of mobile open-data apps it has developed. The list, which is available through its official web portal, USA.gov [ https://www.usa.gov/mobile-apps ], comprises of nearly 300 apps. These apps, by and large, are specific to the Agency’s mission.

Apps range from the practical (waiting times at US border crossings) to fun (North American Aerospace Defense Command’s tracking of Santa Claus’ journey on December 24th) – not many of those – to the arcane (railroad crossing locator).

These apps essentially consist of user-friendly interfaces to specialized open-data sets. In many regards, these are the first-generation eGoverment apps – based on the concept of “let’s make all this data available and see what people do with it.”

Data.gov – This companion website lists 81 government-data-based apps developed by third parties. Like USA.gov, the apps cover a very wide range of applications.

An interesting app, which is still under development, is iCitizen. According to its creators, iCitizen “tracks elected officials and the issues you choose to care about in real time. Take part in polls to let your representative know where you stand on hot-button topics. Real-time monitoring and voting. Rate your federal and state elected officials. View their voting records and campaign contributors. Track the current issues most important to you, and keep up with related news. Cast your vote in polls related to today’s issues. Show your support for or opposition to pending legislation.” If iCitizen can do all of this, it certainly would raise citizen engagement to a new level.

Code for America  – This site lists Code for America’s products: 40+ apps focused municipal services. These “tactical” apps are designed to solve specific problems or provide a particular capability. Some examples:

AddressIQ – Jointly developed with the City of Long Beach, CA, this web application was developed to reduce the demand on emergency services by analyzing city data to help identify addresses with a high number of 911 calls (In 2013, 10% of the city’s addresses generated 52% of 911 calls). AddressIQ displays this information to city staff and supports the coordination of cost-effective ways to provide those addresses with better care and resources.

TextMyBus – Provides a simple text messaging service to relay real time bus arrival information to Detroit riders and an API for developers to build 3rd party transit apps.

Jail Population Management Dashboard – Gives Louisville, KY, judges, corrections staff, and police a real-time, in-depth view of the local metro jail system, which helps them understand the conditions in the metro jail and use this data to assess how their decisions will affect program, facility and inmate outcomes.

The above three sites provide a good cross-section of the types of government-open-data apps that are being implemented today. As I indicated in a previous post, these examples represent the first-generation of GaaP applications – akin to the Pong video game of the early eighties.

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