Apps are everywhere these days. You have California’s Locator app, Florida’s State Parks Outdoor Guide, or West Virginia’s Suspicious Activity Reporting app. These are amazing developments but until NASCIO developed the State App Catalogue there was no central list of state mobile apps.
And considering states provide essentially the same services, being able to collaborate is key.
The State Mobile Apps Catalog is a one stop portal for smart-phone and tablet apps developed for the 50 states. Samantha Wenger is NASCIO Research Coordinator.
Wenger told me during GovLoop's State's in Focus spotlight interview that they have added more than 50 apps in the past few months.
How did the State Mobile Apps Catalog idea emerge?
"The idea originated from one of NASCIO’s members. The USA.gov portal of apps that was created by federal agencies was the inspiration for our NASCIO member. They felt that we should develop some sort of catalogue where we can collect all of the apps created by state agencies. This idea coupled with the executive support from NASCIO’s president at the time, Brenda Decker, allowed the project to take off. It started off with approximately 160 apps," said Wenger.
"In the beginning the NASCIO team worked in doing the initial research and a lot of initial collecting of state apps and we wanted to add apps that were native state government mobile apps. We were not looking for links to mobile websites or portals. We were looking for apps that were developed by the state or with the state agency in order to upload them," said Wenger.
Criteria for the apps?
- Apps couldn't be nationwide, federal or even city specific.
- Avoided apps that had to do with higher education or universities.
"By giving ourselves this criteria to meet it was really easy to start going out and pulling the apps which kind of checklisted those," said Wenger.
What is the search-ability like?
"We have a heat map so you can search by state. You click on a state and it will show you all the specific apps for that state. You can search by category, so if you just want to know what all of the apps are for public safety or emergencies you could search that way. You can also just search browse all," said Wenger.
"There is a tab on the website for uploading your state mobile app. You can include an iTunes app URL, an Android app URL or a Microsoft app URL. Or all three. Most of the apps that we see are an iOS or an Android. Developers fill out a short summary and then pick a category that it falls under and they hit submit. I am the approval process. I get an email and then I proceed to approve or disapprove the inclusion of the app to the catalogue based on whether or not it meets that outlined criteria. Unless there is a question of whether or not an app should be included, the app is updated to the catalogue immediately," said Wenger. "This was a learn as you go process for us. We realized that when they were uploading their apps, if I did decide an app couldn’t be included, there was no contact information for who uploaded it. So there was no way to get in touch. So we added a frequently asked questions tab that included the criteria for the apps inclusion. The FAQ also had my contact so that if they had questions or if they noticed their app wasn’t included they could also reach out to me."
Why was having developers submit their own apps important?
"NASCIO did a lot of the grunt work upfront, but we knew that we were missing some. We didn’t want to leave anything out, so we came up with the idea to have developers add their own apps. States are constantly creating new apps. Mobile apps is actually ranked number seven on NASCIO’s survey of top 10 priorities for CIOs in 2014. Most states are still developing apps and some are just now getting into the mobile space. So we knew that state agencies would be constantly developing apps and we figured this would be a much easier way for them to upload an app on their own then for us to have to constantly check to make sure we were getting everything. They like to be involved too," said Wenger.
"It was a healthy competition in the beginning. States could see the apps that other states had, they could see the leaders in the development of creative apps. They would contact me and say, ‘I need to get an app on the website, how do I do that?’ It was really great to see that the states wanted to be involved and they wanted to create these apps. It really did spur some creative ideas for apps and some competition," said Wenger.
What apps stand out?
"Almost every state has parks or tourists apps. Or DMV or traffic apps. But the states that really succeeded were the states that came up with unique apps specific to their state," said Wenger.
Where do you see the catalogue going in a couple of years?
"I hope that the catalogue continues to grow and by developing unique apps specific to the state’s needs it allows us to identify issues that are a high priority for the states. I hope all the states are able to benefit from each other and create apps that really benefit their citizens and apps that help the government address some of the highest priority issues," said Wenger.