people using apps

AppStore gives governments access to municipal apps

Granicus recently launched an AppStore for its government customers that will allow them to easily find, purchase, deploy and manage apps for government-specific solutions -- including 311, citizen mobile, budget transparency, social media, recycling, and solid waste.

In its announcement, Granicus, which provides a cloud platform and product suites for government, said the AppStore would drive down procurement and management costs and accelerate adoption of cloud-based technologies. “Few government entities are equipped to manage large numbers of apps,” wrote Javier Muniz, CTO of Granicus, in a blog post. Meanwhile, citizen developers and startups with great ideas for improving government struggled to deal with the government’s slow procurement cycles and bureaucratic purchasing processes, he said.

“As a result of these two observations, we conceived of the AppStore, a platform that not only allows governments to manage the multitude of cloud-based applications that will become part of their daily lives, but also gives new, emerging technology companies the launchpad that they need to gain the traction that is all too important in this fast paced app economy,” he said.

The app solutions cover categories such as 311, citizen mobile, budget transparency, social media, recycling, and solid waste. According to Granicus, the benefits of the AppStore include enabling users to easily discover new applications; consolidating app purchases with a single contract; and managing security and user roles for all apps in one place. Users’ existing credentials are used to automatically log them into their installed applications.

Additionally, Granicus vets the apps it offers “with rigorous testing and real-world use by other government agencies,” the company said.

Among the apps in the Granicus AppStore are:

Captricity, which harnesses the power of machine learning and human intelligence to turn forms (paper forms, PDFs, faxes) into actionable data in hours with 99 percent accuracy.

Measured Voice lets users schedule social media content, approve messages before they go out, shorten URLs with and reports performance to help agencies develop a mission-driven social media operation.

OpenGov provides instant access to the budget and visualizes current and historic revenue and expenses—from multi-year trends to object-level details.

SeeClickFix is a communications platform for citizens to report non-emergency issues, and governments to track, manage, and reply--ultimately making communities better through transparency, collaboration, and cooperation.

Granicus is not alone in its app store approach. Both Amazon and IBM also have launched their own app stores. In March, Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing services met the Defense Department's security and compliance requirements, paving the way for more defense agencies to run workloads on AWS’s cloud. IBM announced its app store in April.

Agencies are also developing their own means of managing mobile apps. Last month the Agriculture Department rolled out a department-wide mobility management service that includes an enterprise mobile app store that hosts custom and approved commercial applications for devices. Further, the National Institute of Standards and Technology created AppVet, a free, open-source tool that IT administrators can use to test the safety and security of mobile apps. AppVet integrates with app stores.

Yet while app stores hold promise, the crux of the problem is cultural, not technical, said Abhi Nemani, the former co-executive director of the civic-oriented nonprofit Code for America,  in PandoDaily. Politicians, not technologists, are the ones who are initially planning the software; IT isn’t part of the initial decision-making process; instead, they are asked to build software after the planning phase, he said.

Additionally, risk-adverse governments may be reluctant to install software that streamlines workflow because of the potential cost of bugs and glitches, Granicus’s CEO Tom Spengler told PandoDaily.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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