White House releases code to updated mobile app

Agencies looking to build mobile apps can take a cue (and the code) from the White House. This week, the developers in the White House released an updated mobile app that delivers news, blog posts, press releases, photos, videos and live streams of events with the president and administration officials. The app also includes tools to search WhiteHouse.gov as well as a way to save favorite items and share them via Facebook and Twitter. The free app runs on iPhones, iPads and Adroid smartphones and tablets.

According to Peter Welsch, deputy director of Online Platform for the Office of Digital Strategy, the number of mobile visits to the White House site has tripled in the last two years, hitting over 15 percent of the site's total traffic. To meet the increasing demand for mobile-friendly information, the White House developers revamped the mobile version of WhiteHouse.gov and rebuilt the White House apps, adding new features that fetch, cache and display multiple feeds containing articles, photos, and live and on-demand video. Additionally, the apps are now compatible with iPad and Android tablets.

Mobile developers can get the source code for the iOS or Android versions on GitHub,  the Web-based open-source code repository site. The code will allow mobile developers to configure the application to retrieve and display content from arbitrary RSS feeds and configure the app to receive push notifications.

By releasing the code for the apps on GitHub, the White House hopes to encourage other developers to review and improve the code. Additionally, the accessibility to the code will give other governments or agencies a way to quickly build and release mobile apps.

The White House has also posted to GitHub the Drupal 7 code base used to build the "We the People" app that lets users create and sign petitions. The administration, in fact, just announced that We The People had passed the 3 million-signature milestone. Since being launched in September 2011, the tool has received 45,901 petitions and 3,320,520 signatures. That’s an average on about 72.3 signatures per petition, so many of them didn’t reach the threshold for a White House response. But 111 have reached that threshold, which initially was 5,000 signatures but was, after a large early response, soon raised to 25,000.

Likewise, GitHub is hosting code from the Presidential Innovation Fellows projects, such as Blue Button for America, which will allow individuals to easily and securely download their own health information electronically, and Project RFP-EZ, which will create a streamlined process for the federal government to do business with small high-growth companies.


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