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Obama To Agencies: Optimize Web Content For Mobile 322

Posted by samzenpus
from the phone-of-the-people dept.
CWmike writes "President Barack Obama has ordered all major government agencies to make two key services available on mobile phones within a year, in an effort to embrace a growing trend toward Web surfing on mobile devices. Obama, in a directive issued Wednesday, also ordered federal agencies to create websites to report on their mobile progress. The websites are due within 90 days. Innovators in the private sector and the government have used the Internet and powerful computers to improve customer service, but 'it is time for the federal government to do more,' Obama said in the memo. 'For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need.'"
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Obama To Agencies: Optimize Web Content For Mobile

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The fact that users are forced to navigate a labyrinth means that the government is trying to do to much.

  • "I applaud the government for having the foresight and initiative to develop a comprehensive strategy to advance of some of the most attractive attributes of today's communications solutions," he said in an email. "The strategy that they have developed, in collaboration with industry, clearly emphasizes the need to provide reliable, secure, and cost effective access to mission-critical and citizen-centric services anytime, anywhere."
    .
    Dude, the mobile revolution has been going on for years.
    • by Grave (8234)

      Yeah, a couple of years. Not decades. By government standards, taking action now is actually pre-emptive!

    • by Jack9 (11421)

      > Dude, the mobile revolution has been going on for years.

      This is not a long time in terms of technology maturity. This is not a measurable amount of time in the eyes of the US Government.

      • by mcwop (31034)
        I would disagree. 1) Been 5 years since the iPhone came out. 2) Mobile growth has been exponential both in adoption and pace of innovation compared to almost any personal technology I have seen. Sure we are still in the early innings, but I hope anyone involved in tech recognized the potential at least one year after the iPhone release.
  • Beauacracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeMacK (788889) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:16AM (#40099359)
    'For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need.'"

    Or perhaps we need to simplify the number of "programs", that might help too.

    • Re:Beauacracy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:36AM (#40099575)

      So which programs do you ditch, and how would it help? How would eliminating farm subsidies help someone find information on WIC checks?

      Knee-jerk anti-government responses may be great for karma-whoring, but there's no substance there. There may be a few edge cases where programs aren't pulling their weight and should be cut, but the vast majority of the government's efforts go into very important programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. Dragging those programs into the 20th century is commendable.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sycodon (149926)

        People like you have been bitching about knee-jerk anti-government responses for decades.

        Now look what we have...an annual budget of over three trillion dollars (thanks to baseline budgeting, it's here to stay).

        I have a better idea. How about YOU make a case for the programs you want to keep. All of them.

        See ya next decade, 'cause it will take you that long.

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          People already made the case for them, that's why they're law. If you want to get rid of them, you have to make a case for that. We don't just reset the government every time some asshole demands it.

          If you don't like any of it, then you're free to leave. I'm sure you can find yourself a utopia without any government services.

      • by MikeMacK (788889)
        My response was not anti-government, it is pro-efficiency. I was simply responding to what the President said. He is saying that someone has to get "information across different government programs" in order to find the info they want. I don't see how creating mobile apps helps that, seems like simplifying the number of programs a user interacts with would. As to which to "ditch", that's a completely different argument and one we've all been having for decades, and probably will continue too.
      • it would help if the different agencies had a single Standard Form and did things like share info (as required) where they overlap. What needs to be done is map the different agencies as to what they do and if an agency has say 85% of its duties done by other agencies then close that agency (reassign the balance to one of the other ones).

        • Re:Beauacracy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:07AM (#40099883)

          If you look at Ron Paul's plan to cut 990 billion dollars, that's essentially what he does. The bulk of the savings comes from stopping the killing of foreigners, while the last third comes from merging departments together for greater efficiency.

          But ya know..... Paul is nuts. Why would we listen to a nutty idea like promoting peace & increasing efficiency? It's craaaaazy. So the Cable News tells me. ;-)

      • Re:Beauacracy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anon-Admin (443764) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:00AM (#40099799) Homepage Journal

        So which programs do you ditch, and how would it help?

        How about all of them?

        We de-fund all of them, then each program has to come back to congress and justify it's continued existence. It has to provide supporting data that the job it is doing is needed and accomplishes the goals it was created for.

        Farm Subsidies and WIC are easy things picked by most people as an example. Take a look at The U.S. Agency for International Development, Or the federal grant for $765,828 that was given to bring an International House of Pancakes franchise to Washington, D.C, and there are thousands more. The number of wasteful programs outweigh the number of good ones.

        • Re:Beauacracy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by KhabaLox (1906148) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @11:55AM (#40100353)

          How about all of them?

          We de-fund all of them, then each program has to come back to congress and justify it's continued existence.

          I have a great idea, everyone. The Federal government is too wasteful - they're always making reports or wasting our money on things we don't need. So let's make each federal agency present a plan justifying it's existence to Congress. Every two years when a new Congress starts, each agency will come in turn to prove their worthiness with power point presentations, graphs, and spreadsheets. I know this will work, because we do it for Congressmen. They have to justify their existence to the voters every two years, and it's not like they have more important things to do in Washington than scrounging up donations and campaigning for 18 months in their districts.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc.

        One simplification is to make SS and M like the food stamps program..... a needs-based system designed to help the 20-30 million poor persons. Those of us who have money will buy our own retirement through saving, our own medicine/insurance, and our own food at the store.

        • by KhabaLox (1906148)

          One simplification is to make SS and M like the food stamps program..... a needs-based system designed to help the 20-30 million poor persons. Those of us who have money will buy our own retirement through saving, our own medicine/insurance, and our own food at the store.

          Well, Medicaid is already for the poor.

          How would this work for SS though? I'm upper middle class, my wife an I contribute to our 401(k)s, etc. So do I get a pass on my SS tax? Or do I pay into it without the expectation of getting anything back? What happens if the market tanks right before I retire, and the $1m I expected to have is now $500k? Am I eligible for SS to make up the difference? I don't think you've thought your plan through (or at least, not described it very well).

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>do I get a pass on my SS tax?

            Simple. Do you get a pass on the Welfare or Food stamp or Unemployment taxes, even though you never collect? Do you get a pass on Government school tax, even though you never had kids, or you sent your kids to a private school?

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            Oh and the eligibility would be based on lifetime income. If you fell short at the end of your life, or had a period of unemployment in the middle, you would fall below..... say $3 million ($60,000 per year per person) then you could collect SS.

      • Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. Dragging those programs into the 20th century is commendable.

              All of those programs should be terminated with as much haste as possible.

      • That's a quick and easy one. The federal government doesn't educate anybody, that's the job of the states. If you want info on education in your state, or a state you're looking to move to, get it from that state where the education is being managed and performed.

    • I just changed my mailing address with the VA. The phone call took me over an hour (had to wait a half hour on hold only to make an appointment for them to call me back later). The man informed me to change my address for any medical benefits or education benefits, I'd have to call them (was a bit vague on who "they" were..) because it's three separate databases.

      WTF?! It's all the Department of Veterans Affairs! Why do they have my data stored in THREE different databases?! And why can't this guy submit t

  • What a Laugh! The Government can't even update their websites in less than 90 days. They are too inefficient to complete a task like this within a few months.
    • Re:90 Days!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pympdaddyc (586298) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:23AM (#40099445)

      To be clear, they are not being ordered to implement the new strategy in 90 days, they're being ordered to implement the new strategy in 12 months. The 90 day requirement is to have a page publicly documenting their progress.

      That said, I'm still curious whether agencies can move fast enough to get something like this done in even 12 months. =P

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        To be clear, they are not being ordered to implement the new strategy in 90 days, they're being ordered to implement the new strategy in 12 months. The 90 day requirement is to have a page publicly documenting their progress.

        That said, I'm still curious whether agencies can move fast enough to get something like this done in even 12 months. =P

        which really might not be enough for some agencies to contract subcontractors for the work of creating a blog.

        • by chill (34294)

          This has been done before. You're over thinking it if you suggest a blog might be used. The HSPD-12 implementation status sites are most commonly a single HTML page or a single PDF document linked off an agency website.

          For example, the U.S. International Trade Commission. Go to their main page at http://www.itc.gov/ [itc.gov]. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click on the HSPD-12 (PDF) link.

          THAT is what is being mandated.

      • by Sloppy (14984)

        To be clear, they are not being ordered to implement the new strategy in 90 days, they're being ordered to implement the new strategy in 12 months.

        Shit! Oh well, never mind what I said here [slashdot.org] then; it really is a boondoggle after all.

    • Re:90 Days!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 47Ronin (39566) <glenn&47ronin,com> on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:30AM (#40099521) Homepage

      To be fair, as a supplement to the President's memorandum, the U.S. CTO and CIO are leading programs to stop the proliferation of .gov sites and focus on converting all the PDF and static website content into machine-readable data so public/private services can communicate create content via APIs. Your sites won't need updating if the data coming from the government is being streamed into an embedded visualization app. You'd be able to consume whatever report or graph you need in whatever form you need it in, using the scope you want.

      The video for the the CTO/CIO announcement (more for the Slashdot crowd): http://fedscoop.com/video-vanroekel-park-announce-new-government-digital-strategy/ [fedscoop.com]

  • When politicians pretend to care about random voting/donating blocks of citizens, when they really could care less.

  • I'm all in, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by medcalf (68293) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:19AM (#40099401) Homepage
    The government's problem isn't technology. You can't automate well a process you cannot do well on paper. The thicket of laws and regulations is such that any government process becomes bogged down in irrelevancies. You WANT a bureaucracy for things like making passport issuance regular, but is our online passport application going to come with a must-accept click-through with a paperwork reduction act notice?
    • by dkf (304284)

      The government's problem isn't technology. You can't automate well a process you cannot do well on paper. The thicket of laws and regulations is such that any government process becomes bogged down in irrelevancies. You WANT a bureaucracy for things like making passport issuance regular, but is our online passport application going to come with a must-accept click-through with a paperwork reduction act notice?

      Now we're going with apps, we can make it an unskippable video describing how this is reducing paperwork instead. Go, go, government progress!

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)

      The government's problem isn't technology. You can't automate well a process you cannot do well on paper.

      Maybe we're doing it backwards. Maybe if software engineers (helped) design government processes they would be more efficient.

      I'm not a software engineer, but I do have that kind of logical thought process, and I know this has helped immensely in my career as I spec out business processes and design/refine the way of doing things (i.e. processing information, moving paperwork, reporting data, etc.)

    • Agreed. As someone who's worked for the U.S. federal government, the amount of effort required to comply with various directives, even to accomplish the most basic of tasks, is maddening.

      For example, suppose you needed to order some laptops for your developers, and some compilers as well. Private sector: 4 hours to shop around, and you'd have the order fulfilled in about 3 weeks. Most of that delay would be for custom builds of the laptops by Dell, HP, etc.

      In the government: 20 man-hours gathering compet

  • The meat of the memo is on page 16: Shift to an Enterprise-Wide Asset Management and Procurement Model
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/egov/digital-government/digital-government-strategy.pdf [whitehouse.gov]
    "GSA will establish a government-wide contract vehicle for mobile devices and wireless service"

    The rest of this is just window dressing.

  • it is time for the federal government to do more

    Too bad this is completely missing the mark.

  • It makes me proud (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rssrss (686344) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:32AM (#40099533)

    to know that Obama can pay attention to the really important stuff while he deals with a trillion dollar budget deficit, a factious Congress, the European Debt crisis, the Iran nuclear crisis, China's disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea, ...

    • by Jawnn (445279)
      Suits me fine. If the Republican'ts want to continue their stated strategy of doing nothing whenever possible, let the Executive Branch take initiative where it can. When all parties want to quit the grammar school, partisan bullshit, let's talk about tackling the "more important" issues.
    • Frankly, if my President is too stupid to think about more than one thing at a time, I don't much want him as my President. The rest of us have multiple "really important" things that we deal with all the time; the President should be even better at it than the average Joe.

  • An excellent opportunity to double the amount of babble presented making it twice as difficult to find the information you want and hide the fact that many things that we should know are just omitted.

    As scientifically minded people, we have tendency to model systems. The only model that really fits most democratic systems is extreme cynicism. The politicians may not be exclusively power- and money-driven with just about total disregard for the will of the people, but if you apply a model based on that
    • by sycodon (149926)

      To start with, creating a government website is like trying to index the contents of a land fill. So much trash in so many places.

      Now, take the task that's virtually impossible with a full blown browser and make it work on a 3"x2" screen with a touch pad interface.

      Yeah. All the tech people in the government have a complete WTF? look on their faces.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @10:42AM (#40099623)

    Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love driving your mountain roads that go from nowhere to nowhere and have absolutely zero traffic for hundreds of kilometres. Certainly a beautiful way to waste money. This seems like the very same thing.

    Mobile devices such as these have been around for about 5 years. That makes them new technology, especially in government circles. What's going to happen after the 90 days? Will the next order be to improve the sites to support the next big mobile browser? Oh wait, that's what this is -- wasn't it just two years ago that he ordered everybody to make their services available online in the first place?

    Government's always been required to make things available to the widest audience. If everyone could access the government services from a desktop, that'd suffice. It needn't be better than functional. You don't need to pay your taxes from your shitty smart phone -- especially because 10 years from now your smart phone won't be so shitty.

    • by tepples (727027)

      wasn't it just two years ago that he ordered everybody to make their services available online in the first place?

      Yes, and a lot of them ended up implemented in Flash, Java applets, or something else that doesn't work on Safari for iOS or Android Browser for Android.

  • But personally there is practically zero information that I need to get from the government. I understand there are exceptions, but I think the norm for my government interaction should be filing my taxes and filling in the fasfa for my daughter once a year. I'm probably over stating, but it does bring into question exactly what the return is on spending all of this money.
  • Doesn't mean "make it 200x300". Make it a normal website, just take out the mouseover crap (this means you slashdot). I can't select text on /. To quote someone when using my iPhone because there's some stupid detection JS when you click regular text.
    • The National Instant Criminal Background Check System. [fbi.gov] This is what's used to check who can buy a gun. It's currently a kludge, works differently in some states, and is up only 17 hours a day. (It's down on Xmas.) There should be an app for that.
    • E-Verify [uscis.gov], for checking whether someone is authorized to work in the United States. There should be an app for that. Then there would be no excuse for not checking.

    One app for the left, and one app for the right.

  • If "optimize for mobile" includes preventing zoom, they can just stop right now, thanks. Seriously, there's web design help sites where people discuss how best to stop people browsing on hand held devices from zooming in. And then they all set their font sizes to about 4 point. Evil, evil people. :-P

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