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Government Spends Exorbitant Price for 'Crappy' Smartphone App

"I really cannot stress how bad this application is."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has an app with heat safety tips, a heat index converter, and the ability to get information from NOAA’s weather database. Let's just say it's not Angry Birds in terms of app thrill factor.

So why are we reporting on it? The price tag. According to Rick Jones at Gun.io (via GeekOSystem), the government paid nearly $200K  for an app he calls "a steaming pile of shi*." Jones, an Android app developer himself, says his rate is $100 per hour and that the app, at this level of sophistication or lack thereof, would have taken him about six hours. So, $200,000 versus $600:

Pardon my French, but I really cannot stress how bad this application is. Firstly, it isn't actually capable of the function it is supposed to do. When I first tried the application, it told me that it was currently 140F in Boston. It is also extremely slow, it looks like butt, and it crashes all the time. It is completely horrible in every way.

Jones submitted a FOIA request for the source code and cost of the app. Although the source code was not provided, here's the U.S. Department of Labor's response regarding the cost:

The cost, including conceptualization, requirements analysis, content development, clearance, translation, programming and software design (including coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to interface with their database), testing, accessibility enhancements (for accessibility-enabled smart phones), and documentation for the Android implementation of the application totals $106, 467. Estimates for the additional programming and testing necessary to ensure similar functionality and accessibility across the available iPhone and Blackberry platforms are $56,000 and $40,000 respectively.

Jones admits that the quality of the app was no surprise, as he doesn't expect much from the feds, but the sticker shock is what got him. GeekOSystem went on to report reviews of the app, which was 3.1 stars out of 5, but it does note several people have given the app praise and full marks. GeekOSystem itself calls the app "crappy" but also goes on to write that the federal government is still just beginning to dabble in smartphone apps.

Full Disclosure: This app was created by Eastern Research Group, which is based in the U.S. but owned by the U.K. company AEA. Eastern Research Group is a company I used to work for, although this project was outside of my group. There was no conflict of interest the writing of this story. I found this story on GeekOSystem before knowing ERG created the app.

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