GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS
Great mobile app: Census data you can actually use
- By John Breeden II
- Aug 09, 2012
Government agencies looking for clever ways to provide to the public the data they collect should look no further than the new America’s Economy application released this week by the Census Bureau.
America’s Economy is a dynamic tool that lets users search 16 leading indicators of economic health. These types of reports are the ones that make national news when they come out, especially during election time, so interest is presumably high from people interested in how the country is doing.
The mobile app is available for Android and iOS platforms. I was fortunate enough to try it out a little early on an Android phone, and was highly impressed with both the ease of use and also how well the data is presented.
Having just completed my review of the 10 best government apps, I can say that if America’s Economy was available then, I would surely have included it. Not sure which of the 10 we picked would have been bumped, but I’m confident America’s Economy would have been on the list. It should make the list next time.
A calendar component lets you know when reports will be updated.
All available reports are accompanied by graphs, and come from three different agencies. From the Census Bureau, you can get information on Advance Monthly Retail Sales, New Residential Construction, New Residential Sales, Construction Spending, International Trade, Advance Report Durable Goods, Business Inventories, Manufacturers' Goods, Monthly Wholesale, Homeownership Rate, Quarterly Services Survey, QFR - Retail Trade, and QFR – Manufacturing.
From the Bureau of Economic Analysis you can find out the Gross Domestic Product numbers and Personal Income and Outlays. And from the Bureau of Labor Statistics you get the Unemployment Rate, which seems so important in this presidential election season.
What makes the Census app so useful is that it’s dynamic. Statistics are updated on a regular basis, so you never end up with stale data. A calendar component shows users the schedule of when each one of the components will be refreshed, so you know that the monthly wholesale report, for instance, usually is updated on the 12th of each month.
And you won’t have to wait for the 11 p.m. news to know when the new unemployment figures get released; if you have the app, you will be one of the first to know. All of the data shows historical trends in graphical form, so it’s easy to tell if a stat is on the rise or the decline.
The app was created as part of President Barack Obama’s Digital Strategy initiative, which directs each agency to create at least two apps for the public within the year.
However, it’s one thing to create a static window into a database, and quite another to go the route the Census Bureau did and make a program like America’s Economy, which is dynamic, colorful and darn useful for anyone interested in knowing about the nation’s overall financial health.