Azara Blog: The government has spent some money on iPhone apps

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Date published: 2010/07/06

The BBC says:

BBC News has learnt that the Government has spent tens of thousands of pounds developing iPhone applications.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that development costs ranged from £10,000 - £40,000.

These included a travel advice app from the Foreign Office and a jobseekers' tool.
By the end of May there were over 53,000 downloads of the Jobcentre Plus app, although critics have asked why someone who can afford both an iPhone and the expensive running costs would need a Jobcentre Plus app.

There are also reports that it will not work with Apple's new iOS4, which Mark Wallace, campaign director for the Tax Payers' Alliance, found a little ironic.

"It seems many Government bodies have given in to the temptation to spend money on fashionable gimmicks at a time when they are meant to be cutting back on self-indulgent wastes of money", he told BBC News.

The idea that there is something inherently wrong with government departments commissioning iPhone apps is silly, but unfortunately the Tax Payers' Alliance is pretty silly. They might as well complain (and possibly have complained) that government departments are commissioning websites. And pretty much all apps that were developed prior to iOS4 should work with iOS4, so Wallace is probably just shooting the breeze on that one as well. (It's just that the apps might not take advantage of the new iOS4 features, which is fair enough.) And government bodies were not "meant to be cutting back" on this, that and everything, until the current LibCon slasher government took over.

The real question here is whether the apps (and websites) are value for money. If you were to charge 100 pounds an hour for developing an app (and there are presumably many IT companies that would charge less), then that would mean 100 to 400 hours for development for an app, which seems excessive. And given that the iPhone is only one mobile platform, it does seem not to be particular value for money, although an independent auditor would have a better idea than the Tax Payers' Alliance.

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