GSA’s Digital Registry running low on mobile apps

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The General Services Administration’s U.S. Digital Registry has been populated with more than 7,300 verified federal accounts on third-party websites, social media and other platforms since its launch, but of those, just 323 are mobile apps and sites, an agency official said. 

GSA’s Jacob Parcell, manager of the agency’s mobile programs office, told FedScoop he doesn’t know the exact number of mobile apps and responsive, mobile-friendly Web pages the federal government operates, but “there are a lot more than 300.”

Parcell said it’s important that federal agencies and offices with mobile services take part in the registry — launched in late January to authenticate government digital accounts outside of the traditional .gov or .mil domains — because it “offers an opportunity for federal agencies to show they are leveraging cutting-edge mobile technologies to engage their audiences anytime, anywhere,” and serves as an inventory of federal apps and mobile websites, Parcell said in a GSA blog post.

About two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 30 percent of all federal Web traffic comes from mobile devices.

“Agencies can register their mobile products — mobile websites (including responsive design) and native apps to verify they’re mobile-friendly authoritative sources of government information,” Parcell wrote. He added, “[A] mobile registration in the U.S. Digital Registry demonstrates an agency’s commitment to serving their customers’ needs anytime, anywhere and on any device.”

Despite that, many mobile app and website operators aren’t there yet, made apparent by the just over 300 mobile accounts registered of the 7,300-strong registry.  

Some of that small number has to do with agencies not knowing about the mobile side of U.S. Digital Registry, which since its launch has been mainly touted as a verification tool for federal social media accounts.

“Agencies don’t know about the mobile side of the U.S. Digital Registry,” Parcell said, but he thinks that will change as GSA and its DigitalGov team spread the word about it. He also mentioned there are a number of mobile apps and website that are “lost,” or that agencies haven’t added to the federalwide list on USA.gov, which the Digital Registry now feeds into.  

But it also points to the complexity of developing mobile apps and the corresponding low number of them in the federal government, compared to social media accounts, for which all of the technical development work is handled by the platforms themselves.

“For mobile, you have to develop a native app or responsive Web design concept, prototype it, develop it and then launch,” Parcell said. 

Many agencies are looking to responsive Web design as a way to be mobile but avoid the complex development needs associated with apps. But “even for responsive design, development is not a walk in the park,” he added. “For instance agencies have to decide which content will be prioritized on the smaller phone screens.”

Nevertheless, it’s imperative that agencies face those mobile challenges head-on. Mobile technology is not a fad, Parcell wrote in the blog post, “it’s a must.” 

“Agencies must find and engage customers at their mobile moments and the registry is just the place to verify they are doing it,” Parcell said. He added, “If an agency’s products aren’t registered, their voice won’t be as loud.”

Contact the reporter on this story via email at Billy.Mitchell@FedScoop.com or follow him on Twitter @BillyMitchell89. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop to get all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning at fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Agencies, App Development / APIs, Applications & Software, apps, Citizen Services, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Innovation, Jacob Parcell, mobile and wireless, mobile apps, Mobile Devices, mobility, Social Media, Tech, U.S. Digital Registry
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