Yes We Can (Compare Apples to Oranges)!

Six months ago — in internet-time, “the Late Pleistocene” back when Google Wave roamed the Earth — people were decrying the immature state of Gov 2.0. In mid-March, Matt Rosenberg wrote an article for Social Capital Review responding to a post by Mark Drapeau that called for apps based on government data that had actual utility in people’s lives. My friends, we are the very dawn of theHolocene.

The herald of the new epoch is John Tozzi, whose article “Gov 2.0: The Next Internet Boom,” sent shock-waves into Gov 2.0 sites’ plate tectonics. The application Tozzi wrote about was See Click Fix (which I wrote about here). See Click Fix allows people to help government identify problems, track the government’s activities in fixing the problems, and now has a community feature that enables people to self-organize and solve their own issues. But a new business model is emerging that extends the capabilities of Gov 2.0 into an entirely new area.

A new breed of application is taking the government data, repackaging it into a format that human beings (rather than spreadsheets) can understand, and delivering it to people at a time when they can act on the information. Case in point: we can now compare apples to oranges when we are standing in the produce section of our local grocery store.

Even now, the process isn’t seamless, and it’s far from complete. But I can think of at least six interests that should want me to compare apples and oranges, and have enough of a stake to develop an single app that lets me do so:

  • Farmers — Apple growers want to promote apples; orange growers to promote oranges.
  • Farmers’ CommunitiesLakeland, FL, depends on orange growers for tax revenue; the more people know about oranges’ nutrition, the more oranges they’ll buy, and the fewerteachers layoffs Lakeland will face.
  • Safeway — Safeway is spending a ton of money redesigning their stores in DC to compete with Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Giant. A branded mobile app that made shopping easier would encourage me to come to Safeway. Likewise, they could add the app as a component to their online store.
  • Application Developers — I’ll pay for a good app.
  • My Health Insurance Company — I’ll keep paying my premiums regardless, but I’ll use far fewer services if I’m healthy, and I’ll stay healthier if I understand that apples lack some amino acids and no selenium to speak of, so I’ll want to compliment them with some nice, salty anchovies.
  • My federal government — There are actually two reasons why the government wants to me know how nutritious apples are. The first is to justify their research into how nutritious apples are. The second is akin to the health insurance company: I generate more tax revenue and consume fewer government services if I’m healthy and working.

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