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What do Smokey Bear, traveling feds and children have in common? Their own federal apps.

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The government is in the midst of an all-out push to make information available to citizens anywhere at any time and to make customer service competitive with the private sector. To that end, federal agencies have launched more than 100 custom-built mobile applications and mobile-adaptive websites in recent years.

In October 2011, Nextgov asked three private sector app developers and experts to weigh in on a dozen government apps and tell us what worked and what didn’t. Their reviews pointed out a few gems, such as the Veterans Affairs Department’s PTSD Coach and the Social Security Administration’s Baby Name Playroom. They also spotted a few duds, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ ATF app, which was little more than a text-heavy website crammed into a 3.5-inch screen.

With the White House redoubling its efforts on mobile, we decided it was time to make these app reviews a regular feature.

Our experts look at three apps this month: The Forest Service’s Smokey Bear app, which offers tips on making a safe campfire, the General Services Administration’s Per Diem app for federal workers traveling in the continental United States and the FBI’s Child ID app, where parents can store information for quick access if their child is abducted.

Stay tuned for new federal app reviews each month.

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