Since Apple and Android launched app stores in 2008, we’ve gone from being satisfied with basic handsets and inbuilt features (Snake, anyone?) to carrying the world around in our pocket. From shopping to travel, eating to entertainment, companies know apps increase interaction, satisfaction and ultimately profit.
But whilst people expect there to be an app for something, that doesn’t mean there can only be an app. Although this is true of every business, it’s essential that public sector institutions remain accessible to everyone. As a belated Happy 70th Anniversary to the NHS, here’s how 4 public sector organisations are choosing to tackle it!
CommonsVotes allows you to see how MPs have voted in every matter to pass through the chamber, so you can track representatives and see results in charts. HousePapers contains documents pertaining to House business and background on debates - you can download and annotate documents, which are uploaded daily.
Both these apps are basic, but the UK Parliament website makes this information taxing to find, so an app is gladly received by those who have an interest. There’s plenty of room for more features to be integrated. Perhaps the government petition service would work well on an app?
Last year, NHS Digital launched their flagship app. Whilst it contains a lot of material that already exists online, it also allows patients in some areas to book GP appointments and access their medical records. Not all surgeries are digitally integrated and records aren’t always accessible, but as the app learns and grows, who knows what services you might soon be able to access from your phone!
Also seeing success, is an app from the North Midlands hospitals which shows you live waiting times at A&E departments. Elsewhere, an app version of the 111 non-emergency helpline is being trialed in a few London boroughs, combining the advice service with a symptom checker and articles on common conditions. The hope is this will help patients manage their own minor health issues, reducing call-handler hours and therefore cost.
There are also close to 80 apps listed in the NHS Apps Library, which is a website still in its beta phase. These apps provide additional support to patients with long-term conditions and are developed by other companies. It’s a smart way to signpost people to quality support without committing high cash investment. Check out the possibilities here: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/
In 2010, the Highways Agency (now Highways England) saw an opportunity to get information out to drivers about the country’s A roads and motorways. The eponymous app promises to provide live traffic flow information using data from the National Traffic Control Centre, as well as allowing you to plan your journey and “arrive safe and less frustrated”.
Sadly, reviews seem to suggest users of the Highways England app are very frustrated. Complaints flood in about the lack of notification of road works and the app’s poor design. Competition from other companies has put this app on the backfoot. Here’s hoping they can improve it. I’d love an app that could use official dates to accurately warn me of roadworks!
Apps abound on the app stores for local government. District, city and county councils are all getting in on the act! When you’re out on the pavement trying to remember which bin is due for collection, the portability of an app easily outranks the hassle of calling the council or hunting for that flyer you were given months ago.
The services on council apps vary hugely, but you can generally find information on the local area, the councillors themselves and local news. Many apps now offer the facility to report vandalism or disrepair, pavements and street lighting. Some even allow you to make bookings for sports classes or search for jobs. The options for community cohesion really are unlimited and we are likely to see big growth of these apps over the coming years.
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