White House boosts social media apps

Open government goals depend on good application, technology official says

Using social media platforms such as Facebook could be a major way to share government information with the public, a White House official has told software developers at a meeting hosted by Facebook.

Andrew McLaughlin, the deputy federal chief technology officer, spoke Dec. 14 to software developers at the Facebook Developers Garage, a meeting designed to assist people creating applications for social media platforms. The session focused on applications specifically for government agencies.

"We have seen some really good app development using government data," McLaughlin said. "What I haven't seen very much of yet is good app development that blends social media with government data. Getting access to social media is kind of a uniquely powerful thing to do on the Facebook platform and other platforms."

The recent Open Government Directive that requires agencies to release data will have little value unless applications are created that make that data useful, McLaughlin said.

An application produced at Princeton University that makes it easy to search the Federal Register is an example of the applications White House officials want to see created, McLaughlin said. The application, named FedThread, also lets users to sign up to receive alerts about items published in the Federal Register based on keywords.

"There are tremendous opportunities, maybe not to make a ton of money, but to develop apps that really can make the world a better place," McLaughlin said. "We can make a lot of government data available, but it doesn't really do much good unless apps developers translate it into Web sites, mobile applications or platform apps that really are useful."

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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