Users: We want a federal app store

The federal government should set up a shared catalog containing data, application programming interfaces, and Web services to help agencies build mobile apps and systems, according to those responding to a call for ideas on a proposed federal mobility strategy.

Setting up the catalog or “app store” was the most popular suggestion based on comments posted on a website set up to stir “dialogue” on what to include in a draft governmentwide mobile strategy announced Jan. 11 by federal CIO Steven VanRoekel.

The posting states that the catalog would encourage the cross-sharing of data and code in a manner that emulates the Defense Department’s open-source site, but in a “” version.

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The proposed mobile strategy aims to establish guidelines for federal agencies on how to use mobile technologies to improve services for citizens and engage them in government, cut costs, and increase the productivity of government employees.

Other “core objectives” of  the Obama administration’s proposed strategy include efficiently managing mobile acquisition, creating a governmentwide foundation to provide mobility services needed in all agencies, and “fostering collaboration to accelerate mobility across government.”

The strategy’s main website has a forum feature where visitors can post suggestions relating to the six objectives, comment on others’ posts and rate existing posts. The comment period for posting suggestions runs through Jan. 20.

"This will be a game changer for federal agencies,” said Tim Hoechst, chief technology officer for systems integrator Agilex. “Previously, it was unclear how strongly the federal government would embrace the Mobile Internet. Today, the message is that it should be a core element of your agency's IT strategy going forward. And we're going to eliminate the hurdles to doing so," he said.

Fortifying information assurance for mobile devices was the topic of the second most popular post on the site. The posting said the federal government currently has no common policies or guidelines in place for evaluating, validating, protecting or securing mobile technologies such as mobile infrastructure, mobile devices, mobile applications and mobile data practices.

“I suggest that the government create reasonable security guidelines so that the important work of protecting the federal computing infrastructure is not duplicated in every agency or is not done at all. We can have both reduced expenses and increased security with a little strategy and execution,” the poster wrote.

Another popular suggestion asked policy-makers to define common infrastructure standards to support mobility. These layers would include areas such as network security and device management, the commenter wrote.

Responders also suggested adopting common approaches to accommodate consumerization of mobile devices, updating and developing governmentwide (as opposed to agency-specific) mobility standards, developing federal mobility standards based on user needs, and encouraging bring-your-own-device policies in agencies to save money.

Agilex’s Hoechst said the broader commercial marketplace will also be affected significantly by the strategy. Historically, the mobile market consisted mostly of large platform vendors and smaller development shops, he said. “With this new emphasis on creating assets that can be reused across multiple agencies, the software and engineering opportunities become much more diverse,” he added.

Although the strategy is fairly comprehensive and on-target, it would be a mistake to view it as an entirely new thing because it builds on a number of existing objectives, Hoechst said.

The strategy asks agencies to engage digital citizens, provide tools for federal workers to close the productivity gap, and do more with less by capitalizing on commercial technology. “This is the message that we’ve heard from the [Office of Management and Budget] for the past several years,” he said.


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