Monday, 7 April 2014

Trying to Stay Applicable

Hong Kong government departments have lots of apps... have you used them?
We find it amusing that the Hong Kong government is trying to be relevant in the digital age as its departments have created lots of mobile phone applications -- but no one downloads them.

This was exposed by lawmakers on Friday who found that government departments were spending tens of millions of dollars on apps, some of which have only had a few as 10 downloads.

Nevertheless the most popular government app downloaded was My Observatory from the Observatory -- 3.8 million downloads until early this year for the weather app that everyone checks constantly. The department spent more than HK$26 million producing the app and plans to spend HK$12.9 million more on the next two years.

A potentially useful app on red tide information was presented by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in January but only had 10 downloads. It cost HK$128,000 to create and maintain for the first year.

"The biggest problems is that many departments develop apps and forget about them," information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said at a special meeting of the Legislative Council Finance Committee. "It's a waste of effort."

People Power's Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said, "Some of those apps cost quite a lot to develop. How can we tell if they are cost-effective?"

Mok said the apps contain interesting information, but few people knew about them because they weren't being promoted.

He added the Leisure and Cultural Services Department had developed a series of five apps that only had about 30 downloads since December.

"The department manages parks and sports complexes. They can simply put posters up in the premises," Mok said. Seems like a no brainer, doesn't it...

He said it would be hard to set a benchmark for a minimum number of downloads, but at the same time if an app only had a few hundred downloads, it wouldn't be appealing to people, and so there needed to be a more coordinated push to promote the apps created by different departments.

Government departments need to think about what the apps are going to be used for in the long term -- an app the LCSD developed about the King Yin Lei mansion, declared a monument in 2011 is not going to be of interest to many people.

However an app about the latest exhibitions and where they are would be of use, as well as tips on saving water and electricity, or recycling would be good. But at the same time, what's the point of developing apps if no one knows about them? Seems like the many departments dropped the ball on this one.

Seems like the Observatory is onto something. Imagine if it charged HK$1 a year to download its app...




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