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EPA Mobile Applications (apps) to Empower Citizen’s Environmental Decisions

EPA has a great deal of information which can now be put to effective use through web 2.0 tools including mobile applications. Taking advantage of these technologies allows the agency to put information in reach of those who can apply it when they need it to make more informed choices. The activities selected to support this project are generally intended to help educate the public in making more informed consumer driven choices and taking steps to protect themselves, each of which has the potential to promote all of the Agency’s strategic goals.

Human Health Advisories: EPA is leveraging technology to push human health advisories via mobile phone apps, providing the public with location-based information to help them take action. The project is cross-Agency. One example being developed is the EPA Saves Your Skin mobile phone app, providing ZIP code-based UV index information to help the public take action to protect their skin. Another example of a mobile app is the Air Quality Index (AQI) which feeds air quality information based on zip code.

Green Product Information: This is an Agency-wide strategy to provide a one-stop source of information to consumers to help them consider the impacts of products when making purchases (e.g., energy efficiency, water conservation, chemical exposure, sustainable design). In response to public input during the development of this plan, EPA is developing an Internet portal that consolidates the various Agency product information Web sites into one Web site. Future efforts may include ways to deliver such information through mobile channels, either by EPA providing data that others can incorporate into mobile applications, or direct EPA effort such as text messages or Smartphone applications.

  • How the project supports one or more of the three open government principles. Putting information in a consumable format that is readily available supports many of the data use intentions of the Open Government Transparency principle. While these are mono-directional—information served to the individual, they also support the participation principle by informing choices that ultimately accomplish the meeting many of the Agency’s strategic goals which requires the public’s participation.
  • How agency operations will be improved/benefits across the Agency. Creating mobile applications as part of the Agency’s Flagship initiative will increase our experience in understanding what the public is interested in and how best to deliver it to them. Future data collections and coordinated efforts with other governmental and non-governmental entities may also be influenced by the effectiveness of these activities.
  • How we will identify affected and interested parties, engage them and maintain a dialogue. EPA will monitor feedback from users of mobile applications as well as suggestions from the other sources, e.g., our IdeaScale site. EPA will also monitor requests for other data sets submitted through Data.gov to consider the need for developing other mobile applications.
  • Identification of any external partners. As additional projects are considered, external partners will be identified. These activities and potentially solicitations will be described in progress reports available from our open government site.
  • How we will measure improvements to openness principles. Support of Open Government principles from the EPA Mobile Applications (apps) to Empower Citizen’s Environmental Decisions project is expected to primarily consist of direct feedback from users of the applications. An on-going analysis of this feedback will be part of this projects measurements along with other that well be described in progress reports available from open government site.
  • Steps we will take to sustain the initiative and build in improvements. Similar to engaging interested parties, EPA will monitor feedback on how well the initial set of mobile applications are received and capture suggestions for improvements. It is anticipated that the initial release of mobile applications will generate significant interest and spawn a community that will help determine the extent that the Agency will continue to focus in this area. Progress for this project as with others will be available open government site.