People are using apps for all aspects of their daily lives, and government services are no different. Photo: Anthony JohnsonWhat has the government ever done for you?
Well, once federal and state governments realised that smartphone and tablet apps can provide a useful and cheap service for taxpayers, they’ve created apps for seemingly everything, allowing people to access their services more easily.
We can now check public transport travel times, do our tax returns, search for jobs and plan our budgets, all with government-sponsored apps.
The Australian Police Child ID app helps parents provide information to police to help locate their children if they go missing.
An extremely popular quit smoking app, called My Quitbuddy, won national recognition in the 2013 Australian Mobile Awards as the best mobile app in the government services category.
By 2014 it was downloaded more than 220,000 times. A large part of its success has come from its clever use of psychology, allowing users to track how many cigarettes they haven’t smoked, how many grams of tar they haven’t inhaled, how much money they’ve saved each day and how many days they’ve been smoke free.
Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, argued in 2013 that mobile technology had come so far, and so quickly, that few of us could easily adjust to doing without mobile access to things like apps, “that even a dozen years ago were barely imaginable”.
And things have sped up since then. Mr Turnbull now argues that app development is becoming one of Australia’s economic strengths.
“There are 139,000 jobs in the Australian app economy,” Mr Turnbull said in a speech last year. “In Sydney, 10.7 per cent of information and communications technology jobs relate directly to app development, more than in New York, Chicago or London – albeit a long way from Silicon Valley’s 17.6 per cent,” he said.
So apps are becoming big business. And government departments have been trying to meet the demand from taxpayers for cheaper and easier access to government services.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller app provides a useful service for people travelling overseas, with travel updates anywhere in the world.
The Department of Social Services has apps for Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support, allowing people to do their business with the department on their mobiles without having to go to a government office.
The Australian Tax Office, the Bureau of Statistics, the Departments of Health, Defence, and Communications, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Industry and Science, are among others with apps at the ready.
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