Mobile apps and government: Oil and water?

Posted on April 22, 2012  /  1 Comments

I was at dinner with some people who advise governments earlier today. One said they had identified the top four apps for government. I asked who would develop them? And who decided?

Without being rude, I said that innovation is like throwing 100 things at a wall and seeing what four things stick. That it cannot be done by a bunch of bureaucrats sitting around a table.

What the NYT story below shows is that the problem does not end with getting the apps developed:

a small team of volunteers took just 10 days last summer to create an Apple iPad app that uses Global Positioning System technology to track all of the city’s buses in real time, allowing transit managers and passengers to monitor problems and delays.

Most who saw the SMART Muni app — including Edwin M. Lee and 15 other mayoral candidates in October, and senior leadership from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in February — considered it an improvement over the four-channel radio and old paper clipboards currently used to track problems.

But now, 10 months later, the app that the volunteer developers created for Muni is unused. Muni hopes to put the app to good use some day, but the agency is $29 million over budget and cannot afford to buy the iPads required to run the software, a Muni spokesman said. Nor is the city willing to invest $100,000 to run a pilot program.

1 Comment

  1. But all bureaucrats think they can do everything! Sounds familiar?