TechWeb

10 Helpful Apps From Uncle Sam

Mar 04, 2013 (06:03 AM EST)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240149858


Spurred by an approaching deadline set by the White House, federal agencies have released nine new mobile applications so far this year. That brings to 140 the number of free, downloadable apps now available on Uncle Sam's mobile apps download site, Apps.usa.gov.

The government's expanding collection includes business, travel, reference, news and health and fitness apps. The number of apps available at Apps.usa.gov will keep growing as federal agencies comply with the White House's nine-month-old Digital Government Strategy, which requires them to optimize at least two customer-facing services for mobile use by May.

The apps released so far run the gamut from those that are highly specialized, such as one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that estimates "fair market rents," to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's flu-tracking FluView app. Some are educational and even quirky, such as the Smithsonian Institution's Meanderthal app, which lets users convert photos of themselves into Neanderthal-like images.

Not all of the mobile apps are available for all devices. Some run on iPhones or iPads, others on Androids or BlackBerrys. Still others, such as the Aids.gov app, are platform independent, providing access to mobile versions of government websites. Users can rate the apps using a five-star rating system.

Apps.usa.gov organizes the choices by platform and subject categories. The greatest number, 108, are reference apps. One example is a mobile version of the Government Printing Office's "Plum Book," a listing of hundreds of government jobs that are filled by presidential appointment.

A navigational tab on the portal makes it easy to see which apps have been most recently uploaded to the site. As of March 1, the newest are QuitPal, an app from the National Cancer Institute to help smokers kick the habit, and an iPad game from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called Solve The Outbreak.

Some of the apps have a narrow focus; for instance, the American Battle Monument Commission's Pointe du Hoc app, which functions as a guide to the World World II landing site in France, is mainly useful to people traveling to Normandy. Others have broad appeal. For example, the NASA App provides information and thousands of images on space missions, such as SpaceX's resupply trip to the International Space Station (pictured here).

In this visual guide, we highlight 10 mobile apps from the U.S. government that should be useful to many on-the-go Americans. Image credit: NASA




NASA offers more than three dozen apps on its missions, the solar system and the universe. This one, the NASA App, is a good starting point for anyone interested in following the U.S. space program. Created by NASA's Ames Research Center, it provides news, information and access to more than 150,000 images. The Earth-orbiting satellite trackers and launch countdown clocks are fun and educational. Available for Android, iPad and iPhone.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency has created an app that provides disaster-preparedness safety tips and, for victims, the ability to apply for assistance. Available in English and Spanish, the FEMA App is designed to be helpful in the event of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism and other disasters. Users can pull up a map and get directions to shelters and FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations. There's also a checklist for emergency kits. Available for Android, BlackBerry, iPad and iPhone and in a mobile Web version, too.

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Smart Traveler is a State Department app designed to help U.S. citizens find their way safely when traveling abroad. It provides maps, travel alerts and warnings; U.S. embassy locations; and other information. Users can register with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which lets family and friends reach them in case of emergency. Available for Android and iPhone.

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The White House app is the official mobile app of the Obama administration. It provides news, policy information, photos and blog posts on the happenings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Users can access live video streams of the President's speeches and other events. Available for Android and iPhone and in a mobile Web version.

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The same information that moves the stock market is available to smartphone users in the form of the America's Economy app from the Census Bureau. The app provides an overview and trending for 16 indicators -- on employment, manufacturing, trade, retail sales and residential construction and sales -- from the bureaus of Census, Labor Statistics and Economic Analysis. A notifications capability provides real-time updates. Available for Android phones and tablets, iPads and iPhones.

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This Internal Revenue Service app makes tax season a little easier. IRS2Go provides tax tips and policy updates and can be used to connect with the IRS. Most important, it lets users check on the status of refunds. Available for Android and iPhone.

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Every parent of a small child should have the FBI's Child ID app. It can be used to store photos and vital information, such as height and weight, so that info is readily available if a child goes missing. The app can be used to call 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as to email the child's description to the police and other authorities. There's also preventative advice on how to keep kids safe. Available for Android and iPhone.

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The GAO app is a government watchdog in the palm of your hand. Available from the Government Accountability Office, it's a way to stay informed on how federal agencies are spending tax dollars. The app provides Congressional testimony and legal decisions in the form of reports, videos and podcasts. Information is simply organized, with legal decisions in chronological order. Available for iPad and iPhone.

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You can locate a post office, track a package, schedule pickups, look up ZIP codes, calculate prices and order supplies with USPS Mobile. The "track and confirm" feature is useful when checking the status of Express Mail shipments or packages sent via other services. Users can scan a shipping label barcode with their smartphone camera, then use that info to get updates. Available for Android and iPhone and in a mobile Web version.

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One of the highest rated apps on Apps.usa.gov is the creation of an organization that's not a federal agency. The American Red Cross's First Aid app helps people respond to asthma attacks, allergic reactions, burns and other everyday emergencies. It provides step-by-step instructions and instructional videos. There's also a fun and potentially life-saving feature: quizzes that award badges for knowing how to react in different scenarios. Available for Android and iPhone.

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