The next 12 to 20 months will see a major upsurge in the number of Federal Government agencies making their digital services accessible to mobile devices, due to requirements articulated both in the Coalition’s pre-election ICT Policy and in the Australian Public Service Mobile Roadmap.
In line with this, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is looking for ‘an award winning mobile application developer, with experience in building large scale mobile apps for public usage’ to design its first mobile weather forecast application (app).
The Coalition’s pre-election ICT Policy position is that “Digital services and information should be platform-agnostic and useable from devices such as tablets and smartphones”.
Under the policy, agencies will have to report what proportion of their digital services are not mobile accessible by 2015.
The Government’s Australian Public Service Mobile Roadmap dictates that by June 2014 agencies will “identify and prioritise key opportunities to use mobile technology to deliver better customer services” and “indicate relevant key information and services that will be made available to access and use on mobile devices”.
BOM has issued a Request for Tender (RFT) for the design and development of mobile applications to deal with its rising mobile traffic. According to tender documents, “the Bureau has identified the need to better service this market with the provision of an iPhone weather application service, and a Microsoft Windows mobile weather application service”.
The Bureau’s website is the 25th most frequently visited website in Australia and the most visited government website, according to web analyst Alexa. While BOM provides data to a number of mobile weather applications it has not previously commissioned its own.
The contractor will be required to design a prototype of the application before gaining BOM’s approval to move the project into the build phase. It is intended to integrate into BOM’s existing application programming interface (API).
Currently a number of third-party weather apps source their data from BOM. Weatherzone Plus and Pocketweather both tap into BOM data and sell for $1.99 for Apple and Android Devices.
BOM has two previously developed applications, neither of which provide standard weather forecasts. The first, SunSmart, determines when sun protection is needed while the second, Water Storage, gives access to information from over 250 publicly-owned water storages.
BOM has separately been developing a website compatible with mobile devices. In June 2013, it entered a $28,900 contract with Reactive Media for information architecture and design concepts for the website. This was followed by a $26,600 contract with UsabilityOne for user testing of mobile interface concepts.
The Splendid Projects Company has been testing the website prototype since December 2013 through a $17,000 contract with BOM which is due to finish in June 2014. It is expected that the mobile website must be able to interface with the forthcoming application.
The Australian Public Service Mobile Roadmap indicates that in 2012 there were 8.67 million Australians using smartphones with 4.37 million using tablets. “The productivity and cost saving potential of mobile technologies represent a call to action for agencies to investigate opportunities to improve their workplace and teleworking arrangements”, states the Roadmap.
A number of Federal agencies are moving towards mobile applications in line with the Coalition’s ICT Policy.
In July 2013, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) signed a $77,000 contract with PriceWaterhouseCoopers for a mobile application feasibility report.
In 2013, The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) launched its Tax 2013 app designed for Android and Apple. Even though the ATO’s website is the 128th most viewed website in Australia, it is not yet optimised for mobile browsing.
In 2012, the Department of Human Services (DHS) launched the Express Plus mobile app to provide easy access to Centrelink services. As of 2013, the app had been downloaded 33,000 times and been used to conduct over 4 million transactions.
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