The general rule among government agencies is that we're happy to supply data (we have quite a bit), but that apps based on that data should be created by private enterprise. There are, of course, exceptions. Most exceptions are for inward-facing apps (apps for feds to use, to get our jobs done better), but there are also excellent public-facing apps.

If you're considering contracting for app creation (or crafting one yourself or with fellow Interior staff), consider the following:

  • Is there a genuine need for the app? There should be.
  • Would a mobile-responsive website/page do the job better/cheaper/easier? Let it.
  • Would the app compete with private industry? It should not.
  • Have you budgeted for quality? No one wants a three-, two-, or one-star app with their agency's name on it.
  • Have you budgeted to maintain the app? An app that becomes useless (or even just less useful) at the next point update or security patch, really isn't an app that we want to spend taxpayer money to develop.
  • Are you developing (at least) for both iOS and Android? You should.
  • Are the expected (not "hoped for") results worth the expense? They should be.

There are many more considerations, but these should get you started on the path to a good decision. 

Here's a quick plug for some work by a sibling agency, the EPA: Apps for the Environment: Lessons Learned. If you haven't read it yet, you should do so before committing to app development.