NEW YORK (
) -- The U.S. government may struggle to create jobs, but it has proved to be masterful at creating smartphone apps. Now it's looking for suggestions from you.
Until Sept. 15,
is asking readers to recommend ideas for mobile apps the various government agencies should produce. To give readers an idea of what's possible, the site includes a link to the
the government has already released, which range from incredibly useful apps (such as those that locate alternative fuel sources and notify users of recall alerts) to the just plain bizarre (including an app from the Smithsonian Institute that shows the user what he or she would look like as a Neanderthal).
The government is asking people for ideas on what mobile apps to create next.
Unfortunately, there have been fewer than 100 suggestions to date, which seems low considering this is one great instance where Uncle Sam will listen to you and can quickly do something that may make your everyday life a little bit easier. So we have a few ideas of our own for apps that the government could create, which we hope will get the conversation started. If you like any of these or have an idea of your own, let us know in the comments and don't forget to leave your idea
to be officially considered.
Food stamp map
Food stamp use
has exploded since the recession, and many Americans are likely struggling to figure out how the program works and how to make the most of it. This is one area where a smartphone app could really come in handy. The government could create a map of all supermarkets and shopping centers accepting food stamps and notify users of the one nearest them. In fact, they could go further still and partner with those stores to promote their best deals so consumers get the biggest bang for their government-subsidized buck.
Seized property directory
seizes countless pieces of property
every year, ranging from boats and cars to jewelry and toys, yet many have difficulty figuring out where to buy these discounted items and which sellers they should trust. Fortunately, the U.S. Marshals Service has an in-depth directory of certified sellers and available assets. Why not turn that into a mobile app that maps out the nearest sales and notifies the user of when an auction is taking place in their area?
Building your food pyramid
The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a nice
redesign of the food pyramid
earlier this year, and now it's time for the agency to put it to good use. The government agency has an app called
that gives you calorie information for different foods and identifies which of the five food groups each falls into, but the USDA could take this one step further by creating an app that helps the user build a meal or set of meals that satisfies each section of the full food pyramid. Perhaps the user could enter in the main course they want to eat, or a list of two or three products in their pantry, and the app could identify the best foods to pair it with to have a truly balanced diet.
The government's current
has an excellent feature that allows users to scan a barcode to see if that product has been recalled, but we would like to see this feature expanded into its own app that factors in updates and information from each of the agencies that regulate consumer products. That way, the user could open up the app and scan the barcode of a food product to see if it has been recalled, scan a product that claims to be environmentally friendly to see if the Federal Trade Commission has more information about it, or simply type in the name of the store you're shopping at to see how it's rated by the Better Business Bureau. By incorporating information from multiple agencies into one app, the government could create a powerful directory for shoppers.
Talking point translator
OK, this one is more of a joke, but it would be nice if someone in government put out a kind of encyclopedia that explained common talking points cited in debates and headlines. So, for example, when a candidate uses a phrase such as "cap and trade," the user could find a brief definition of the phrase, perhaps accompanied by a short summary of where Republicans and Democrats stand on the issue.
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