The Department of Labor is apparently on a smartphone app kick. After launching a mobile timesheet app in May (see our post, U.S. Department of Labor Launches Timesheet App to Help Employees Independently Track Hours), the DOL followed up with an OSHA Heat Safety Tool, and now a Labor Statistics app where you can “get the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Employment and Training Administration – Unemployment Rate, Consumer Price Index, Average Hourly Earnings and many others – delivered right to your phone.”
It is somewhat unclear from the DOL’s press release who the target audience is (i.e. who is interested enough in what the DOL has to say that they will download the app onto their smartphones), but nonetheless, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said that, “The Labor Department is continuously exploring how to share important information using the fastest, simplest, most wide-reaching means available, and this app allows us to increase the accessibility of our statistical data.”
Way to go, DOL, for embracing new technology. Now lets see if anyone will use it. (Based on the comments section on the iTunes App Store, at least a few people have downloaded the app, and the comments range from “Very helpful information,” to “Nice way to look at the DOL stats …, very nicely done and simple to use…,” and finally, “This is a great idea to get out very important information, but with all the charm of a DMV form. This doesn’t need to be fancy or over the top, but it also shouldn’t reinforce government stereotypes for being cold, bland, and flavorless the way that it does. How about some graphics or interactivity? I have to admit that I’ve never seen an app with no graphics at all, whatsoever. Very odd.”)
For me the question will be whether these DOL apps get used in the real world by real employees and real businesses and what the consequences of their use will be. That, at least for now, remains to be seen.
If you have these apps on your smartphone (and you actually use them), we’d love to hear from you.