Are mobile apps a waste of money for governments?

Earlier today, I wrote about how I thought it was cool that the U.S. government launched a website to keep track of all the mobile applications it offers. Well, it looks like our friends across the pond are doing a smarter thing and asking if these programs are worth the government’s time and money.

The BBC used freedom of information requests to see how much money was being used by the British government to create apps. The thinking behind this request was: while it’s great for the government to disperse information in as many mediums as possible, these apps cost a lot to create and owners of and Apple iPhone or Android smartphone generally don’t need free help from the government, particularly at a time when the economy is still not in the greatest of shapes.

The report found that the government was working on at least six iPhone apps, including programs that help you quit smoking, maintain your vehicle and search for jobs. The programs generally cost at least $40,000 to create but some of those were initiated under previous administrations.

It looks like the government will be taking a harder look at how it creates iPhone apps, as the Cabinet Office said:

The Government recently announced a freeze on all marketing and advertising spend for this year and this includes iPhone applications. While the Government wants to ensure that information and services are available in the most efficient and convenient forms, future spend on iPhone development will be subject to strict controls: only essential activity, approved by the Efficiency and Reform Group, which is chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will be allowed.

So, what do you think readers? Should government be spending tax payers’ money on creating mobile apps or should those funds go somewhere else?

[Via BBC]

  • Simon

    Not a waste of money. The alternative is what we have in Canada: http://canada.gc.ca/mobile/tut-eng.html. You don't want that.

    Government websites are usually so convoluted that most people won't even bother digging through them for information they're looking for, but mobile apps aren't only streamlined, they're widely accessible, even to those outside of traditional broadband range.

    • marinperez

      But what if it's highly iPhone-oriented, like most of the governmental apps are? A cruddy website can still be accessed by low-income people at a public library and the same can't be said of an iphone app.

      • Simon

        iPhone's stupid popular in the U.S., and BlackBerry (the only smartphone more popular) takes consummately more manpower to make apps for. Besides, it's just as much about making important info accessible regardless of location as well as ability to access the web.

  • Amy Shannon

    Cross platform development would enable the Government to reach anyone with a smartphone handset, rather than just the small percentage of people who own iPhones. The Green Party created an app ahead of the elections that was accessible on all the leading smartphone handsets including Nokia, Blackberry, iPhone, Samsung etc – the app took just two weeks to build and for a modest budget. Key information and services could then be made available through apps to the majority of the population whenever and wherever they are.

  • Amy Shannon

    Through the mobile channel the Government is able to provide people with important information whenever and wherever they are. What is important is that they make this information accessible to as many people as possible, not just the tiny percentage of the population who own iPhones. Cross platform development (www.grapplemobile.com) would enable the Government to reach the entire smartphone market, with apps that can be created in as little as two weeks and within modest budgets.

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