If your cell phone ever gets recalled, you could get the news from the federal government -- on your cell phone. Yes, there's an app for that.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is one of the agencies now offering downloads of applications for Android or Mobile Web devices from the official government site, USA.gov. When you're done perusing dangerous products, you can browse dangerous people on your smartphone via the FBI's America's Most Wanted app, or learn about the Postal Service or the Federal Emergency Management Agency through their apps.
There's also a body-mass index calculator, which reflects First Lady Michelle Obama's emphasis on fighting obesity, particularly in children, and apps for calculating calories and browsing health information.
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The downloads are part of a refurbishment of the site that was launched Sept. 22, 2000, under President Bill Clinton to make it more user-friendly and contemporary. The improvements, which include search results provided by Microsoft's Bing search engine, went online just before the Independence Day weekend.
All the 20 applications currently featured appear to be free -- but the site, evidently in anticipation of future third-party offerings, warns visitors to check for any prices.
Planned offerings, contained on an appended spreadsheet, include Found In Haiti, an iPhone app that includes information on locating victims of the deadly January earthquake on that Caribbean island; Are You Safe, which helps people determine the safety of the neighborhood they are in (ostensibly based on crime statistics); a National Gravesite Locater; and the official iPhone app for the U.S. Army.
"The apps invention has made it much easier for folks to use meaningful services while mobile," said Kirk Parsons, a wireless industry analyst for J.D. Power and Associates. "The next phase will be to manage all the apps that are offered into usable folders where one can easily go and find those apps that are used the most."
But are government data and services information really what people want when they download apps?
Maybe, Parsons said, "If the apps are more information-based like contact numbers or links to check on services such as receiving unemployment checks and Social Security rather than interactive where you're required to input personal data."
Making Government Accessible
USA.gov is administered by the General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services and Communications. It got off the ground in 2000 with the help of entrepreneur Eric Brewer, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who donated a powerful search engine to the government that he developed with funding from the Department of Defense.
The web site says USA.gov "makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web. USA.gov also serves as the catalyst for a growing electronic government."
Posted: 2010-07-07 @ 2:28pm PT
Interesting that the Recalls app accesses my phone contacts and browsing history. Why? I don't see where this type app would require that type access to operate properly.