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Tax Dollars Spent Making Redundant Mobile Phone Apps
July 6, 2010
The US Government has announced a new app store on the recently remodled USA.gov website. Currently, four free apps are featured on the site with 14 others. Three of these apps, listed below, perform tasks that existing apps all over the iTunes and Android App Stores already handle.
One of the most popular tools on the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Web site is the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator. BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat, which is related to the risk of disease and death. The NHLBI BMI calculator receives 1.6 million visitors a month and ranks #1 on Google. This mobile application provides results right on your phone along with links to healthy weight resources on the NHLBI Web site.
At the time I’m writing this, over 84 BMI calculators already exist on the iTunes App Store. Many of them are also free, while others have them as part of a full feature set at a small price point. Not only that, but there are literally hundreds of BMI calculators accessible even on a mobile phone via interactive web sites.
“My TSA” gives you 24/7 access to information that passengers frequently request from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“My TSA” provides a tool to find out if an item is allowed in your carry-on or checked baggage, information on ID requirements and liquids rules, tips for packing and dressing to speed through security, and real-time operating status for U.S. airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
What this description does not tell you is that there already exists nearly a half-dozen apps that do this very thing. Not only that, but the TSA has a mobile website that is accessible by the iPhone and other smartphones with this same functionality.
This is the first tool of its kind from USDA that utilizes mobile technology to educate and empower consumers to make healthful food decisions!
At a time when many Americans aren’t getting enough of each food group and are challenged with achieving a healthy weight, MyFood-A-Pedia is a mobile tool to provide consumers quick access to nutrition information for over 1,000 foods. MyFood-a-pedia includes: calorie amounts, contribution of a food to the five food groups, and number of “extra” calories in a fod from solid fats, added sugars, and alcohol.
Doing a quick search, I found over 250 apps and mobile websites that advertised the same functionality as My Food-a-Pedia. Some of these apps are linked to much larger databases containing several times the amount of nutritional data. In addition, they often have an expanded list of features that make the app much more useful.
Couincidentally, the UK Government is under fire for overspending on some apps of their own. As a society, we have become all but accustomed to government overspending as it seems to be more of a passing joke than a scary reality that will have long-term effects for generations to come. While 10-40 thousand dollars doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of government spending, it is a substantial yearly income for one tax payer.
Another issue is that a strong argument could be made that these apps being made freely available by the US Government could be setting itself up as competition in a growing market for mobile applications. While their apps aren’t exactly as full featured as a great deal of the ones being produced by private development companies, the availability of a free app from a source as well known as the government would make someone think twice before purchasing or even trying out one from a small developer.
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