10 great Web apps in government

A new age of innovation has dawned at many pioneering agencies

The push for open government and public engagement has intensified the spotlight on the Web, affecting the way federal agencies communicate with one another and interact with the public.

During the past two years, GCN has focused on highlighting 10 great government Web sites. The rise of social networking in 2009 prompted the smarter agencies to establish a presence on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. The previous year — GCN’s first list of 10 great government Web sites — reflected the realization that the Web can be the primary form of interaction with constituents.

For this year's list, we focus on 10 great Web applications and the innovative ideas and approaches that gave birth to them. Many of the applications attest to the push toward more open government and transparency. For example, OpenGov Tracker, an application that NASA developers created, aggregated public input from 23 agency sites on how agencies could fulfill the goals of the Open Government Directive.

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Great dot-gov Web sites 2009

Great dot-gov Web sites 2008

National challenges to spur innovation are beginning to take hold with competitions such as the Agriculture Department’s Apps for Healthy Kids, which seeks to promote healthy eating habits and lifestyles. A three-month competition that sought to tap into the creative minds of the nation’s software developers, game manufacturers, students and other innovators ended in June. Judging of the submissions by a panel of judges and the public will last for a month beginning July 14.

Web 2.0 tools are valuable in responding to a crisis and in providing members of the public with information they need every day. For example, the National Library of Medicine’s Pillbox is a Web application that enables users to quickly identify unknown pills by describing the pills' shape, color and markings. The application then searches a government database for a match. It taps into databases at NLM and the Food and Drug Administration and uses a application programming interface that lets others create more apps with the information.

“Presidential leadership, social change, and grass-roots enthusiasm seems to have spurred an explosion of innovation within the government,” said Sheila Campbell, co-chairwoman of the Federal Web Managers Council.

This is not a definitive list of the 10 best. What follows is a compendium of 10 Web apps or Web-centric ideas that are great examples of how agencies can achieve open government and public engagement though new media.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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