These government apps are on the drawing board

New mobile tools are under consideration at the National Archives and elsewhere.

The National Archives is considering building a mobile tool that would allow researchers working in the physical archives to snap photos of documents they’re studying and share them with other researchers in their fields, the Archives’ Chief Innovation Officer Pamela Wright said Thursday.

One goal for the proposed app is to help the Archives forge a stronger connection with its users, Wright said during a webinar sponsored by the General Services Administration’s Digital Government University.

The Archives has launched a number of digital projects in the past few years, including the Today’s Document mobile app and a Citizen Archivist Dashboard. Previous tools have focused solely on exposing documents chosen by Archives staff, though, not by external researchers.  

The Government Printing Office, which recently launched a mobile app to access presidential documents, is now planning to offer a mobile-optimized version of the United States Government Manual, said Michael White, managing editor of government publications. The office is also considering publishing an e-book version of the Code of Federal Regulations, he said.

GPO may develop a mobile app for the Federal Register at some point, White said, but because the register’s huge volume doesn’t lend itself to mobile research the app would likely be focused on people who want to scan through just the past day or week of register notices.

The Education Department is focused on optimizing more of its existing Web content for mobile viewing and making it easier for people to search for grants using smartphones and tablets, said Jill James, the department’s senior Web editor.

All of the agencies are focused on making more of their raw data easily downloadable so outside developers can build their own applications, a mandate of the federal digital strategy released in May.

“Our goal is exposing the data,” Wright said, “so other people can make apps we never dreamed of.”