Agency Spotlight: Making Mobile Government a Reality

At the May 2012 launch of the President’s Digital Government Strategy, only 35% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone. Today, on the one year anniversary of the Strategy, that number is nearly 50%.

To keep pace with the rapid adoption of mobile devices and the breakneck speed of mobile innovation, President Obama charged agencies with releasing flagship mobile services and making data available in developer-friendly formats to accelerate the production of services and mobile applications.

Twelve months after the President’s call for change, there has been great progress bringing mobile government to citizens’ fingertips. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, agencies are announcing the release of hundreds of new mobile services, datasets, and APIs, providing unprecedented public access to government data.

Recreational boaters gearing up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes can use the MyNOAACharts App to identify their location on freely available nautical charts.  Students and parents can use the StudentAid.gov App to access straightforward and easy-to-understand information about planning and paying for college. Family members visiting the Arlington National Cemetery can use the new ANC Explorer App to locate individual gravesites or other points of interest.  And Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients or their representatives can use the SSI Mobile Wage Reporter App to report monthly wages to Social Security from the convenience of their smartphone. 

Beyond this growing array of apps, major Federal websites, including www.medicare.gov, www.socialsecurity.gov, and www.faa.gov have been mobile-optimized.  Citizens can now use their mobile devices to find or submit useful information from the road. They can report traveler complaints through TSA’s TRIP form,  determine the cleanliness of nearby waterways with EPA’s How’s My Waterway site, or find the nearest Alternative Fuel Station using the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuel Stations Mobile Locator. The list of mobile services is growing every day.

We’re also excited to announce the release of new APIs from across government that will make it easier for developers and entrepreneurs to build apps of their own based on open government information. And we’re already seeing great results.

Not only did the Office of Personnel Management release mobile apps for USAJOBS, making it easy for job seekers to find jobs from their mobile devices, but they also released an accompanying API so that Federal job opportunities could be promoted on commercial job boards and social media outlets. The Department of Transportation used the same playbook for releasing the SaferCar App, exposing the underlying data through APIs so entrepreneurs could develop commercial services to help consumers make informed decisions about vehicle safety. Or the public can use these new digital tools to eat better: the Farmers Market Directory API has made available USDA’s most popular dataset, a listing of 7,800 farmers markets in all 50 states.  You can find lots of other released APIs here.

The data driving these innovations belong to every American. Whether you’re looking for how to keep your family safe or the best deal on a college education, we believe the answers should be easy to find. And one year into the Digital Government Strategy, we are proud of how far we’ve come toward making mobile government a reality. 

Nick Sinai is US Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Haley Van Dyck is Senior Advisor to the US Chief Information Officer at the White House Office of Management and Budget

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