Government pays the price for their smartphone plans

Posted on July 29, 2010 by

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A freedom-of-information request made by the BBC at the beginning of July endeavoured to find out what the government is spending on applications developed for the smartphone market.

They found that at least 6 apps are planned, some of those already released, such as the Job Centre Plus app.

Development costs for the applications ranged from £10,000 – £40,000, with the most expensive planned app being a DVLA app that would show users how to change a wheel along with other motoring advice.

On the 6th July, the governement announced that they would be freezing spending on their iPhone app development for the time being. This may have been in part due to the massive backlash the FOI request had. The public were certainly not pleased with the overwhelming costs being pumped into the smartphone market.

In spite of this, the free Job Centre Plus application, which is available to download for iPhone and Android users, received over 53,000 downloads by the end of May.

The total cost of the application was a whopping £32,775 plus vat, to create.

But was it worth the hefty price tag?

On the Android Market the job app has 2 stars, with comments ranging from:

terrible app, won’t save preferences, unclear icons, American spellings, ugly, poor layout.’

to ‘it’s a very good search engine for jobs

So what about the functionality? I downloaded the Android version of the Job Centre Plus app to have a play and find out.

Initial impressions were not good. Although a nice looking, well branded app, basic functionality was lacking with the search box- when tapping in the ‘what job are you looking for?’ box the keyboard made no response. No pop up keyboard= no typing.

Luckily the ‘where?’ box underneath gave me more joy, enabling the keyboard pop up and allowing me to fill in both boxes with info. But not an ideal start for user experience.

And as for the search? Well I’ll let you know as soon as the loading screen gives way to some results. My search for Sales jobs in Peterborough which I began half an hour ago is still ‘getting job data…’

However I can still see through the translucent loading screen that other functions of the app involve being able to browse jobs, favourite them and email them to yourself or others.

Perhaps when the search finishes loading I may be able to see how they work, though I shan’t hold my breath!

The verdict? Apps like these are a fantastic extension to the job search, allowing job seekers to search at their convenience. Usually. The government seem to have significantly dropped the ball on this one; there has got to be some kind of justification for the amount spent on this poor functioning tool.

There are thousands of fantastic apps; and great job search apps built by many different development teams, that have a MUCH more accessible cost. Not only that but these apps have functionality that frankly, blows the Job Centre’s app out of the water.

Is this just a typical case of more money than sense by the government? This Android user thinks so…

[Update: at time of publishing, I still don’t know if there are any sales jobs in Peterborough…]