Should government develop apps?


A number of federal agencies are in the app-development business: NASA, Transportation Security Administration and Veterans Affairs Department to name a few.

But mobile app development governmentwide is dispersed and done in silos, federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said from the CES Government conference inLas Vegas. Each agency and bureau identifies problems and creates solutions that are independent of each other.

 A federal mobile strategy due in March will address the government’s role in app development, VanRoekel said. Meantime, within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically the National Weather Service, officials are creating a draft policy about the agency’s role in developing weather apps, said NOAA spokesman Chris Vaccaro.

“I think this is a responsible step forward in really trying to bring focus and organization to a process that otherwise could be relatively ad hoc,” Vaccaro said. 

NWS has also temporarily halted development of device-specific applications. The hold does not apply to apps developed for internal use.

Here’s a portion of the email NWS employees received from their deputy director on Dec. 21:

There are thousands of weather applications available for iPhone, Android, iPad, and similar wireless devices. Many of them are provided at little or no cost. Many of them use National Weather Service (NWS) warnings and other weather products and some explicitly identify NWS as the source of their information. Given this well-established and growing market for device-specific weather applications for wireless devices, NWS is declaring a hold on use of any NWS resources, including on-duty time of NWS employees, to develop such applications. 

 The Washington Post covered the issue in an earlier story.

When asked about the government’s role in app development, VanRoekel said government’s priority should be providing valuable data to developers in an efficient way.


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