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New Presidential Documents App

The Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) have released a mobile Web application (app) on the daily public activities of President of the United States. Here is the announcement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 10, 2012 No. 12-40


WASHINGTON-The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) have released a mobile Web application (app) on the daily public activities of President of the United States. The app is part of both agencies efforts to support The White House digital strategy for the Federal Government by ensuring the American people have access to Government information on any device. The Presidential Documents app includes the President’s:

* Executive orders
* Speeches
* Statements
* Communications to Congress and Federal agencies
* Approved acts
* Nominations submitted to the Senate
* White House announcements
* White House press releases

The app has user-friendly search capabilities allowing users to access content about the President by searching by date, category, subject, or location, which includes a map feature. This is the first time GPO has enabled an app with a geolocation feature providing users with access to the most recent content near their location. The public can take advantage of the free mobile Web app on most major mobile device platforms. GPO and OFR also make available the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys).

Link to app: http://m.gpo.gov/dcpd

“GPO continues to build upon its reputation as the digital information platform for the Federal Government with the development and release of the Presidential Documents app,” said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks. “GPO and OFR have enjoyed a successful partnership for more than 75 years to make Federal Government information available in print, online and now on mobile devices.”

“OFR continues to push the envelope on public access to critical government information. Innovation is a key component to the NARA strategy and providing access via mobile apps is a great example of how OFR is embracing technology. I am very excited and proud of NARA’s relationship with GPO on this communication achievement,” said Archivist David Ferriero.

The Presidential Documents app is the third app released by GPO; other apps include the FY 2013 Budget app and the Mobile Member Guide, which provides users with official biographical information about Members of the 112th Congress. GPO has also supported the Library of Congress in creating an iPad app for the Congressional Record. The Presidential Documents app represents the first app for the OFR and the third app for the National Archives….

Ad Hawk: the free app for identifying who’s behind political ads

Thanks Sunlight Foundation for creating Ad Hawk, the smartphone app that identifies political ads as they air and immediately tells you about who is behind them. I’m not so inundated with ads here in CA, but I bet this will be useful for all of our readers who are in swing states.

Read the Congressional Record on the go!

Want to read the Congressional Record on the go? Well now you can with this Congressional Record iphone/ipad app created by the Library of Congress under the guidance of the Committee on House Administration. The app pulls data from ?the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, and the Government Printing Office. With the app, the reader can:

  • Browse editions of the Congressional Record by date: January 4, 1995 (the 104th Congress, 1st Session) to the present
  • Perform keyword searches within individual documents or sections within documents
  • Share documents via email
  • Save documents to your preferred iPad PDF reader
  • Identify the latest bills and resolutions considered daily on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Identify the latest bills, resolutions, treaties, and nominations considered daily on the floor of the U.S. Senate

The [[Congressional_Record|Congressional Record]] is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session.

Ten Federal Government Mobile Apps

The Feds have lots of mobile apps at apps.usa.gov. Information Week highlights some favorites in an article: 10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam, including:

  • The FBI’s popular Ten Most Wanted list
  • FBI’s Child ID app (lets parents carry pictures and vital information such as weight and height about their children in case of emergency. It provides tips on how to keep children safe and what to do if they go missing, with fast access to law enforcement authorities via email and phone.)
  • Science.gov (search scientific information from more than 50 databases and 2,100 government-affiliated websites.)
  • Cancer.gov (provides a dictionary of terms, and news and information on cancer types, diagnoses, treatments, and how to treat side effects.)
  • Smithsonian Institution’s Access American Stories (companion for visitors to the American Stories exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.)
  • Airport Wait Times (provides estimates of the wait times–the estimated time from landing until passengers are screened by Customs agents–for arriving flights at 23 international airports based on averages and time of year, not real-time data.)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: The Edge (online magazine with news and information on housing and community development issues and regulations.)
  • IRS Jobs (jobs at the IRS.)
  • NARA DocsTeach (documents of historical significance.)
  • Smokey Bear

Gov Data not attracting many developers

There are at least two ways to look at this story from National Journal‘s technology newsletter.

  • Data, Data Everywhere, By Adam Mazmanian, Tech Daily Dose (May 16, 2012).

    It’s not clear why access to 600 gazillion terabytes (or thereabouts) of free, machine-readable data covering traffic accidents, copper smelting, phytoplankton cell counts and other fascinating, everyday topics have only inspired, at last count, 85 mobile apps.

One is that government hasn’t found the right incentives to attract development of applications that make use of the wealth of government data in datasets that are more easily available than ever. This explanation is probably what drove the administration to host a “data pep rally… designed to stimulate interest in translating raw data into simple, navigable apps that consumers can use on mobile devices” today.

Another is that the whole idea of relying on the private sector to make information freely useable and useful (see, for example, The Federal Government Must Reimagine Its Role As An Information Provider) is not sufficient. This free-market approach to government information suggests limiting the role of governments to that of providing raw data to developers. This approach assumes that the market will turn that raw data into useful information products.

There is, I believe, reason to be concerned about the free-market approach to government information.

One reason is that, by reducing the role of government we will not gain better or more complete access to information; we will diminish and reduce our access to information. We can see that already with the Census Bureau’s cancellation of the Statistical Abstract (see The demise of the Statistical Abstract and other critical Census titles.) With this model, the government stops producing useful information packages and the private sector does its best to fill the gap and charges a lot of money to do so. That has a lot of bad side effects, though. For one thing, it puts a cost barrier between the information and users. For another, to use the Statistical Abstract example, it is not even clear that the private sector can do more than imitate the product the government produced. (See all the tables in the StatAb that contain “unpublished” data from government agencies. For example, in section 2, “Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces,” I count 12 tables with unpublished data; in section 4, “Education,” I count 32 tables with unpublished data. [counts from the 2012 Statistical Abstract].)

But there is another alternative. We could recognize that the government does have an important role in packaging raw data into meaningful packages of statistical tables, reports, views, and end-user-ready information. This makes sense for two reasons: First, it builds on the idea that information gathered and created by the government is public information and should be easily, freely, publicly usable by the public. That means that the government, which knows this information that it gathered and created best, should create the first package or product or view of that information. This is still, mostly, the default way governments behave for lots of government information. They use everything from press releases of current economic statistics, to amazingly useful reports like the Special Studies (P-23) series from the Census Bureau, to complex web sites like that at the The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Second, it makes sense because these government-produced information products will be better than any “pep rally” to attract others (private sector, public sector, and individual users) to dig into the raw data, to analyze the data, and to develop apps.