Everyone loves technology and apps that can make their lives easier. There’s a reason Apple’s famous “There’s an App for That” ad campaign remains so iconic, even more than half a decade later. The idea of there being a mobile application for every task—from looking up gas prices to checking the weather to choosing the beer you want to drink—is something that appealed massively to the ever-growing smartphone community.
Today, almost everyone has a smartphone and the statement “there’s an app for that” is truer than it has ever been. Even the government has jumped into the game, designing applications and websites meant to simplify taxes, shorten lines at government offices and more. Here are four apps and pieces of online government software that can make your life easier starting now. In addition, we’ve also taken a look at how the government could improve these programs going forward, to serve people better all over the country.
The concept seems immediately appealing: an app where you can monitor your Federal tax return, check the status of your refund, submit payments, and more. There actuallyis a mobile application for those services already. The program is called IRS2Go, and it provides all of the above features, as well as a function to help users find free tax preparation help nearby. The most common criticism is that the app isn’t as good for tracking refunds as the apps for third-party tax preparation companies—such as TurboTax and H&R Block. If the IRS integrated support for those programs and their users, the app would be a must-have for taxpayers.
- The DMV
One of the biggest opportunities in government mobile application software is surely the Department of Motor Vehicles. Have you ever put off a trip to the DMV for weeks, simply because you didn’t want to wait in a long line or go through the slow and convoluted process of renewing your driver’s license or plates? Those issues have been improved slightly with the development of online government software. Nowadays, most DMV offices let you take care of some tasks online or give you the option to get in line electronically (and check your position via text message). Still, most offices don’t have mobile applications that center all of this functionality in one easy-to-use spot. California is an exception, and other states will hopefully follow soon.
- Departments of Transportation
Picture this: Google Maps, combined with up-to-the-minute information from every state Department of Transportation in the country. The result would be a hub of useful information, always noting which highways are closed and where there is road construction—as well as providing updates on forthcoming projects that might cause delays. Maps applications do a decent job of telling you where there are accidents or redirecting you away from closed roads. Believe it or not, this app already exists—at least in basic concept. Take the MDOT Traffic app, which gives “real-time traffic alert information from across the State of Mississippi,” or Mi Drive, a similar app which allows you to check for car accidents, construction, current travel speeds, and more. An app that aggregated all of this information from the entire country seems like the next logical step.
Of the four government app ideas listed here, this one is the least likely to take hold any time soon. Oddly, that fact might make it the most vital as well. Voting is a notorious hassle for just about everyone. You have to find time in the middle of a workday to get to a polling place. If you are in a rural area, you may have to drive a long way to reach your nearest polling station. If you are in a city, you may have to wait in line for an hour or longer to cast a ballot—particularly in high-stakes elections such as those for the presidential race. Just about everyone wants a mobile voting app at this point; the question is whether or not the government can do it while still preventing voter fraud, making sure each voter only gets one vote and blocking votes from those who are not registered or not of voting age.
Who knows for sure what’s next for government apps and software? Perhaps government services will continue their slow adoption of technology. Or maybe government offices and agencies will realize how much their constituents use smartphones and tablets and start offering more powerful software solutions. If and when the latter outcome takes place, let’s hope that the four app ideas above make the agenda for creation or improvement!