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No iPhone Apps, Please — We're British

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the none-for-us-thank-you dept.

Government 393

GMGruman writes "The BBC has stirred up quite a row in Britain about a shocking use of taxpayer funds: creating iPhone apps to provide citizens services. As InfoWorld blogger Galen Gruman notes, it's apparently bad in Britain for the government to use modern technology during a recession, a mentality he likens as a shift from 'cool Britannia' to 'fool Britannia.'"

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Maybe something everybody can use? (5, Insightful)

SigNuZX728 (635311) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836142)

iPhone apps are great and all, but they're not much use to people who don't have iPhones. Why not work on regular old websites? Also you run the risk of Apple pulling your app from the store. Then there's thousands of taxpayer pounds down the drain.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (5, Funny)

JustinRLynn (831164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836144)

iPhone is best [youtube.com] (NSFW language)

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1, Troll)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836358)

Interface and OS.. Many reasons why I'm running Leopard on my AMD dual core. And I'm keeping my jailbroken iPhone. The interface just works...

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (0, Troll)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836370)

Besides, it's BSD...

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (2, Funny)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836394)

iPhone 5 is better [stashbox.org]

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1, Insightful)

Redlazer (786403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836188)

You're right - they should make an Android app instead. They're cheaper, open, and there are many more devices with it.

Websites are great and all, but they are apparently not the best way to motivate the people.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (5, Insightful)

SquarePixel (1851068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836264)

They might be cheaper and more open, but there definitely isn't more Android phones around. If we go by marketshare, best bet is Symbian.

However it doesn't really make any sense to make apps for such a divided market. Websites work just fine from a phone and they work for all.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836352)

Website would do. If an app is the way to go (not the case here), then first it should be certainly j2me one.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (3, Insightful)

janek78 (861508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836212)

While I'm all for the governments embracing modern tools and technology, developing an app for a selected brand of phones to help motorcyclists - that's just ridiculous.

TFA makes a point that "It's very likely that not all of the government's iPhone apps were well-conceived -- but neither are all of the private sector apps in the App Store". But the private ones are not funded with our tax money! It's alarming that the author does not see the difference. Let private parties make ridiculously absurd applications that only two people in the world have use for. Let them make apps that NO-ONE needs or wants. But the government does not have this liberty, the government does not have any of its own money or resources.

If there is demand for an app that acts as a warning light for motorists, let someone make and sell it, let people compete for whose is the best.

Dear government, you are (almost) always ineffective and always expensive. Please remember that and stick with doing your real job.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (0)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836482)

Dear government, you are (almost) always ineffective and always expensive. Please remember that and stick with doing your real job.

Yeah! I had this sudden malaise at work, like I was all sleepy and slow. Turned out a state-owned pension fund had bought stock in our company!

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836708)

According to TFA, a whopping 40,000 pounds was wasted on this. Compared to the many millions that are regularly wasted on websites, I don't see this as a terribly big deal. If the apps are useful at all, I'd rather have the government expand this project to other platforms than to stop it completely.

As for wasted tax money, most government websites (where I live at least) cost way more than they should. If you fix that, you can fund thousands of iPhone apps with the money you saved.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

CrazeeCracker (641868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836722)

Without having read TFA (I'm at work, gimme a break..), I'd offer the opinion that the most sensible thing to do would be to let the private sector handle making all the apps. This gets rid of two problems:

A) Not catering to everybody's platform.
2) Not catering to everybody's needs and tastes
(Because, let's face it, it's impossible to make everyone happy at once.)

If there's data or services that only the government can provide, they should offer APIs that allow developers to take advantage of them. That way, everybody wins. The government's happy because they've done their part, the people are happy because they've got their app, and the devs are happy because they get to be the middle-man, possibly making a profit while they're at it.

There. That wasn't so hard.

Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (5, Insightful)

Dinjay (571355) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836214)

Here is the BBC story if anyone is interested: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/10514367.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Governments using modern technology to support/educate users should be encouraged - it will assist the UK IT industry employment, grow UK IT capabilities and give citizens the information they need when they need it. But at the same time, a government should be careful not strongly benefit one closed source platform over other platforms. Of course this doesn't mean that the UK government should build applications in all mobile platforms - just that they should build at lease some software application on another platform - preferably an open source one.

Re:Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (1)

johndoejersey (679948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836416)

The jobcentre plus app was also released for android [androlib.com]

Re:Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (5, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836476)

Fuck whether the platform is closed or not - the biggest problem is that public money should be spent on public benefit. Not everyone has an iPhone, so an iPhone-only app is stupid. At least make it a normal website, which anyone with a browser can access.

Re:Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (1, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836510)

Not everyone has high definition TV, and yet the BBC do broadcast in HD on some channels - should my lack of HD capability prevent others from benefiting? No.

Re:Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (2, Insightful)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836644)

That is funded by the BBC Television License Fee, not by taxes.

Re:Supporting citizens vs supporting a platform (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836720)

But what if a website doesn't give the user the power than a native app would? If it can be done cheaply (and this does sound extremely cheap for a government project), then I'm all for native apps for the various mobile platforms.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (4, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836218)

Not to mention that the apps don't seem terribly useful. Have a look at the original BBC article - to quote, "The most expensive application was a proposed Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) app that provides "a masterclass for changing your wheel"." and then goes on to explain how it can act as a hazard warning light, calculate fuel consumption and track RAC patrols. So, right there you've got an app costing (apparently) £40,000 to develop, that only runs on a single, expensive platform and is only of use to RAC members who don't know how to change a wheel. Waitaminute. [bbc.co.uk]

Firstly, if you passed your test in the UK in the past five years then knowing how to change a wheel is actually part of the test. You don't have to actually do it on the test, you just have to demonstrate that you know how - so if, for example, you're disabled you could ask someone to help and tell them what to do. Furthermore, if you don't know how to change a wheel, *and* you have RAC cover, then you could just phone the RAC and within half an hour or so a guy in a big orange van will be along and change it for you.

That forty grand could be spent on far more useful things.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836454)

Uh, you have to know how to change tires to pass the test? Why in God's name is that a test point? It's certainly not relevant to safe driving. I have had 1 flat tire in 35+ years. I certainly know how to change them (changed many a tire on race cars), but I would wager that most people would call the auto club.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836484)

You're American right?

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (5, Insightful)

qc_dk (734452) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836594)

Because I live in Scandinavia and changing tires(summer/winter) is most certainly relevant to safe driving?

Plus, Scandinavia is one of them ebul sociamolist places without poor people, so getting your tires changed is ~$100 (cost of labour only), and I'm paying 60% tax. It makes no sense for me to work two days more to afford something I could do myself in 30 minutes.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

Ross D Anderson (1020653) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836514)

What? I did my test last year and I personally guarantee that changing a wheel, or even being asked how to, is not part of the test. During the test they may ask two out of a number of vehicle safety checks [drive-well.com] but as you'll see, the closest question to being asked to change the wheel is to identify when the tyre needs changing.
Perhaps it is part of the Pass Plus course?

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836530)

Firstly, if you passed your test in the UK in the past five years then knowing how to change a wheel is actually part of the test. You don't have to actually do it on the test, you just have to demonstrate that you know how

I passed my UK driving test in January 2008, and changing a tyre was not on either the theory or practical syllabuses, my instructor never mentioned it (and he supplied me with a 10 page list of the question-answer things that the tester will ask during the practical - changing a tyre is not on it, I just checked) and my tester never asked about it. None of the reading materials I used (and still have) mention it as a test requirement.

The UK test has part that are designed to ensure that you can keep a car running safely and economically - it covers such stuff as identifying a slack handbrake, testing levels and topping up fluids and knowing the legal limits on tyres, but it does not require you to be able to change a tyre.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836724)

Firstly, if you passed your test in the UK in the past five years then knowing how to change a wheel is actually part of the test. You don't have to actually do it on the test, you just have to demonstrate that you know how - so if, for example, you're disabled you could ask someone to help and tell them what to do.

No, you don't necessarily get asked. There's a randomly selected part that relates to that. You're expected to know where things are under the bonnet (so may be asked to show where things are), and there's a more practical test to walk through the steps to check your lights are working or to test if your power steering has failed. I can believe it's in the random list of things you're supposed to know, but you've probably only got a 25% chance of being asked about it. But having taken my test in the past five years, I can tell you that not only is it randomly selected, but it's seemingly optional.

Not just websites, but data (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836234)

The UK government has done some great things which can allow third party apps, such as create the TransXChange [dft.gov.uk] schema for exchanging information about public transport (which is used other places too).

On my iPhone I have TripView [grofsoft.com] which is a third party app that (I assume) uses such data and provides a far better interface than any web page (or paper based time table) could.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836324)

Totally agree. In fact the best thing to do is to provide a good mobile website, not an app. I love the fact that National Rail provides a great one for example.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

vilms (106676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836690)

National Rail timetabling/route information on the BlackBerry is plain and simple and FAST. Which is exactly what I need. It makes the £3.5k I fork out on a season ticket slightly more reasonable...
Then again, I am trying to work up the right degree of anger to vent my spleen about this iPhone app. I can't. Because, you know what? The fact that they're looking this way for application development is probably a good thing. What use would a website that only works -say- in Internet Explorer 6 be? At least they're trying to be contemporary. And £40k? *pfffffft!*

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836448)

And roads in Newcastle are not much use to me living in Birmingham...

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

merichards (1529041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836474)

I absolutely agree - most people have other mobiles, why spend everybody's money on something only some people can use? Use the money to produce a decent web-site, pared down to suit all mobile phones, that everybody can use.

Re:Maybe something everybody can use? (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836680)

Java. Works on almost every fucking phone out there, including most 100euro+ non-smartphones made in the last couple of years.

Why not use that?

iphone (5, Insightful)

Frenger (1525791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836152)

Ok, but maybe the taxpayer dollars should be spent on services that everyone can make use of, not just iPhone users.

Re:iphone (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836206)

If the BBC was to create a Linux media center application, would you criticize them as well, seeing as taxpayer pounds (not dollars) were spent on services that not everyone could make use of, just Linux users?

Re:iphone (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836240)

a) The BBC doesn't receive taxpayer pounds
b) If they *only* made a Linux media center application then yes, I would criticize them.

Re:iphone (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836380)

a) The BBC is funded from a tax on television ownership (the 'license fee')
b) Do we actually need these apps?
c) Its not just the BBC spending money on these things so they can look all modern and like they 'get it' (when they obviously don't)

Re:iphone (2, Informative)

gdshaw (1015745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836388)

a) The BBC doesn't receive taxpayer pounds

Incorrect: the BBC is primarily funded by a tax on the use of television sets.

(Yes, you can avoid this tax by not owning a television, in much the same way as you can avoid income tax by not working or VAT by not shopping. It is not merely a subscription fee for watching BBC content, as it is payable regardless of which channels you watch. You can argue about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but to claim that they are not funded by taxes is wrong for any reasonable definition of the word 'tax'.)

Re:iphone (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836686)

It's a license fee. You can technically call it a tax but that will just confuse the discussion. The BBC does not receive taxpayer pounds (where "taxpayer pounds" means pounds paid in tax to the government).

Re:iphone (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836250)

anyone can use linux without paying anybody.
are you willing to provide a free iphone to everybody who would express interest in running the app ?

Square Wheels (4, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836368)

One of the apps was for the Job Centre which tend to concentrate on lower paid jobs to help people on the dole find employment. So the target audience for the app are those least likely to be able to afford an iPhone to use it! If, instead of being distracted by a shiny new toy, even a minimal level of thought had been put into the planning stage this would have been obvious.

What the article completely seems to miss is that the scandal is about stupid, ineffective use of technology not the use of technology itself. Innovation is certainly to be encouraged but if your new innovation is a square wheel you should expect to get shouted at for wasting money.

Re:iphone (4, Funny)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836244)

Yes, but how else are brittish going to "donate" money to ipod developer nephew of director?

He has to make living, you know ... what better way to provide him that giving him project that no-one will really use (and thus noone will complain about if it goes horribly wrong.).

Re:iphone (4, Insightful)

williamhb (758070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836246)

Ok, but maybe the taxpayer dollars should be spent on services that everyone can make use of, not just iPhone users.

It's more than just that. If the Government develops iPhone apps, but not apps for the other proprietary platforms, then that could be seen as a Government endorsement of Apple over their competitors. Why are taxpayers' pounds being spent endorsing and promoting a foreign company's products that few can afford? Of course it offends British sensibilities -- not only is it the poor subsidising the rich (all taxpayers pay, but only the wealthier who can afford iPhones benefit), and not only does it distort the market for smart-phones, but it also puts the companies that invest in the UK and EU at a disadvantage. (Many of the other mobile developers, such as Nokia and Google, invest and employ significantly in the UK)

Re:iphone (0)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836320)

all taxpayers pay, but only the wealthier who can afford iPhones benefit)

You make it sound like it's the Jaguar owner's club or something like that. I don't see what's so prohibitively expensive about them that puts them out of reach of the middle class.

That said, most information you can put into a phone app can be done in a standard web site.

Re:iphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836464)

That said, most information you can put into a phone app can be done in a standard web site.

Which one exactly cannot be ?

Re:iphone (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836734)

It isn't 50 grand or anything but that isn't how money works. It is expensive FOR A PHONE. Even the relatively poor can get their hands on 20 bucks but only the very wealthy can use said $20 to wipe their ass. Just because the poor could technically flush their money down the toilet doesn't mean it should be accepted or encouraged by the government.

Re:iphone (3, Insightful)

X10 (186866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836506)

Next year, the BBC will air programs that you can only view on a Sony TV set.

Re:iphone (0, Offtopic)

SJ (13711) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836306)

Are you all serious?

How long did Mac users have to wait to get a version of BBC iPlayer that even remotely came close to working?

BBC finally shows Apple some love after years of neglect, and they get pounded.

This is EXACTLY what governments should be doing in hard times. Get the money flowing to places it hasn't gone before.

Re:iphone (2, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836382)

BBC != British Government.

Re:iphone (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836386)

Get the money flowing to places it hasn't gone before.

What, a giant US company that does all its manufacturing in china? I think that's how we got into this mess to begin with.

Re:iphone (1)

cabraverde (648652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836412)

How long did Mac users have to wait to get a version of BBC iPlayer that even remotely came close to working?

BBC finally shows Apple some love after years of neglect, and they get pounded.

The iPlayer is a Flash app. Plenty of other computers & mobile devices can use the iPlayer without the BBC having to specifically "show them some love".

Lack of Flash is Apple's choice and iPhone users are lucky that the BBC went out of its way to accommodate them. Not hard-done-by that it took until 2008.

Finally, it's not the BBC being 'pounded' here: they were simply reporting on pointless iPhone app development by various government departments.

Re:iphone (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836458)

To clarify All the Iplayer content was still available streamed via Flash on the BBC IPlayer site. The thing that was missing was a client to download programs, which I used for a bit but then went back to using the website.

Re:iphone (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836346)

Exactly, the InfoWorld blogger is an idiot if he doesn't get this.

We can't justify spending thousands on something that not only an absolute minority can access, but likely only a minority of that minority will ever bother to use anyway.

They'd even have had an argument if they'd done it for Symbian, by far the UK's biggest mobile platform, but even that would be a push. The fact they focussed on a minority, but popular device simply demonstrates they just wanted to play around with the latest gadgets rather than focus on actually doing their job. The web is far and away the most sensible option.

But it's something that effects even pseudo-public sector- look at the BBC, their iPlayer app prioritised the iPhone well ahead of any platform, despite being completely against the BBCs requirement of providing equal access to content that license payers pay for.

If it was private sector then that's fine, what they do is upto them, they may still be criticised but it's their choice at the end of the day. Public sector doesn't have that choice, you can't expect people to pay the same taxes and one of them get all the benefits and the other get nothing simply because of their choice of mobile phone particularly if the phone they chose is actually the same as the majority of the rest of the population are using. In public sector it has to be all or nothing- either support iPhone, Android, Symbian, Blackberry, MeeGo or don't do it at all and again, as people have said here a few times, the web is far and away the best platform to do it for all.

I'm sure someone will point out some fringe platform and say "Well should they support that?", no, of course there are fringe cases and they can't be expected to necessarily support 100% of platforms, but they need to make sure they at least cover the majority of the population for this sort of thing- ideally a vast majority, such as around 95% or so.

The only thing I will say is that public sector has had problems with websites too so it's not just a case of switching to the web until they sort out their issues there, one website they created (nothing overly complex, just a standard CMS albeit with lots of content) cost £105 million- how can that even be justified? Most private sector developers are saying they'd have quoted around £50,000 for the same site, maybe up into the hundreds of thousands if they had to employ staff to enter all the content and such, but £105 million? How can you even spend that much money building a website?

So public sector in the UK has a major problem with IT, the iPhone apps are just one facet of it, but sensible web development seems to be the obvious solution in most cases.

Re:iphone (2, Insightful)

AGMW (594303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836356)

Ok, but maybe the taxpayer dollars should be spent on services that everyone can make use of, not just iPhone users.

Good point, so we should berate them for setting up all the Gov websites too, as not everyone has access to the internet, and obviously any new road building must be shelved until we can ensure everyone has a car!

I'd say it's just the BBC looking for news on a slow news day. See also the sh1tstorm they whipped up about some Gov Dept [bbc.co.uk] screwing up a list of which schools were going to lose their rebuilding funds - some apparently were told they were safe and weren't so the BBC went and interviewed headmasters of said schools and the (usually Left Wing) headmasters were all very upset about it when the reporters asked them the important questions like "How do you feel"!

And let's ask when these apps were all written? Was it since the election or perhaps before the election?

Anyway, so perhaps the BBC headline should read something like "Government spends money on things and we've nothing more interesting to report on whilst all our reporters are in Cumbria again!".

Re:iphone (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836426)

That's rather disingenuous bearing in mind it has been government policy for a while to encourage use of the internet. That and the obvious point that the percentage of population with access to the internet dwarves that with access to the iPhone.

I can understand that developing for the iPhone might be easier as the app store is a great distribution mechanism but it would have been more reasonable to build a web site then develop an app for each platform and release them (or their links) on the website at the same time.

As for the monetary waste, at only £40k, you should see the amount the government has spent on failed NHS I.T. projects. It is truly astounding how corrupt these people are that hundreds of millions can be paid to 'private contractors' with no discernible benefit.

Re:iphone (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836398)

British, UK, taxpayer dollars? Spot the odd one.

no (5, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836172)

it's bad to waste money doing iphone apps when you could save money and do a website which people other then iphone users can use. Why no do android apps too? What about blackberry, symbian etc? max? linux? pc? Yes, it's a waste of money because most people haven't got an iphone, android phome, mac etc etc. Some people have a pc, and they probably have an internet connection, so a website will do. It's the BBC - they make/show tv shows.

Re:no (1)

kainosnous (1753770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836420)

I like the website idea. However, I would recommend that they develop an API which would allow for other developers, whether they be web developers or phone app developers, to create their own way of accessing the data. At least this would be nice for something like the unemployment services. As for how to change a tire, I'm not sure how to help those people. I'm pretty sure that a phone app is not the answer, though.

Re:no (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836528)

Our Government are also cutting back on websites too. They spend £100,000,000 on them, including this little gem [lovechips.co.uk] . If you want a good example of a culture of profligacy with public money, which has resulted in the largest deficit in the EU (and one of the largest in the world) then I think this is it!

Typical cuts behaviour... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836176)

with massive cuts on the way, each ministry is frantically pointing out where cuts can be made in other ministries... and it doesn't help that beancounters can only see direct savings by cutting things... savings through efficiency are harder to measure... even worse, they find it hard to contemplate spending money somewhere to actually save because people are able to take advantage of the apps and not have to waste time making a face-to-face appointment which requires having people employed to handle

hmmmmmm (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836178)

Isn't it more that some people have suggested that making applications for unemployed people, that only run on phones costing 40 pounds (70$) a month is a bit poorly targeted. And that perhaps making websites for renewing car tax etc is more efficient than making apps that only run on a tiny minority of people's phones (any phone that can run an app can use the website.)

Why on earth does the government need to spend loads of money making things slightly more convenient for a tiny minority of nerds and rich tech hipsters, when these people are perfectly able to use the existing websites.

Sent from my phone, obviously!

Re:hmmmmmm (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836202)

It's stimulus, obviously. Since any money spent by the government on any project creates jobs and increases demand (people who work also spend) and improves the economy, it is obviously for the greater good. When will brits realize that? [/sarcasm]

Re:hmmmmmm (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836238)

By putting those developers to work you create something of value which would not have exist before.. The problem with government is that they are usually terrible at predicting the markets which makes them inefficient compared to a free market.

Re:hmmmmmm (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836362)

>applications for unemployed people, that only run on phones costing 40 pounds (70$) a month is a bit poorly targeted. Look down any UK High Street and you'll see swarms of 'unemployed' people with their pet dogs (the sort that are always in the press for killing kids) and iPhones. Usually a clutch of the latest Xbox games they've just aquiried to play on their big flat screen TVs too.
I know some people genuinely struggle on benefits but a great many do very nicely although I don't expect they're exactly in the market for a job either.

Wasteful (2, Insightful)

epp_b (944299) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836184)

I would argue that this is wasteful on the basis that the vast majority of iPhone apps are made redundant by a web browser, for which forms and other online software can be written more quickly and efficiently, and also be available to a far greater user base.

Re:Wasteful (2, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836286)

Maybe the web can replace a lot of apps, but it can't have completely pointless flashy bling widgets quite as easily as an iPhone. It also isn't quite as "teh coolz" to say "I wrote a web app" as "I designed an iPhone app - now there's an app for that!".

Obviously the UK government just want to be "down wid it" (whatever "it" it is that they're supposed to be "down wid") and waste our money on tailored apps for one specific proprietary (and expensive) platform rather than design something accessible to all from a huge range of devices.

Re:Wasteful (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836334)

"Maybe the web can replace a lot of apps, but it can't have completely pointless flashy bling widgets quite as easily as an iPhone."

Nothing is more "completely pointless flashy bling" than Flash.

Re:Wasteful (1)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836612)

Exactly. If it doesn't use the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer or any other input peripheral, it's not an app.

Whodunnit? Jewdunnit! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836186)

Lifting the Lid on the Guilty Yid

The liberals got it exactly right. For years now they’ve been telling us how “vibrant” mass immigration has made stale, pale White societies. Well, London was certainly vibrating on 7th July and that got me thinking: What else have the liberals got right? Mass immigration “enriches” us too, they’ve always said. Is that “enrich” as in “enriched uranium”, an excellent way of making atom bombs? Because that’s what comes next: a weapon of real mass destruction that won’t kill people in piffling dozens but in hundreds of thousands or millions. Bye-bye London, bye-bye Washington, bye-bye Tel Aviv.

I’m not too sure I’d shed a tear if the last-named went up in a shower of radioactive cinders, but Tel Aviv is actually the least likely of the three to be hit. What’s good for you ain’t good for Jews, and though Jews have striven mightily, and mighty successfully, to turn White nations into multi-racial fever-swamps, mass immigration has passed the Muzzerland safely by. And mass immigration is the key to what happened in London. You don’t need a sophisticated socio-political analysis taking in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Jewish control of Anglo-American foreign policy, British colonialism, and fifteen centuries of Christian-Muslim conflict. You can explain the London bombs in five simple words:

Pakis do not belong here.

And you can sum up how to prevent further London bombs – and worse – in three simple words:

PAKI GO HOME.

At any time before the 1950s, brown-skinned Muslim terrorists would have found it nearly impossible to plan and commit atrocities on British soil, because they would have stood out like sore thumbs in Britain’s overwhelmingly White cities. Today, thanks to decades of mass immigration, it’s often Whites who stand out like sore thumbs. Our cities swarm with non-whites full of anti-White grievances and hatreds created by Judeo-liberal propaganda. And let’s forget the hot air about how potential terrorists and terrorist sympathizers are a “tiny minority” of Britain’s vibrant, peace-loving Muslim “community”.

Even if that’s true, a tiny minority of 1.6 million (2001 estimate) is a hell of a lot of people, and there’s very good reason to believe it isn’t true. Tony Blair has tried to buy off Britain’s corrupt and greedy “moderate” Muslims with knighthoods and public flattery, but his rhetoric about the “religion of peace” wore thin long ago. After the bombings he vowed, with his trademark bad actor’s pauses, that we will... not rest until... the guilty men are identified... and as far... as is humanly possible... brought to justice for this... this murderous carnage... of the innocent.

His slimy lawyer’s get-out clause – “as far as is humanly possible” – was soon needed. Unlike Blair and his pal Dubya in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombers were prepared not only to kill the innocent but to die themselves as they did so. And to laugh at the prospect: they were captured on CCTV sharing a joke about the limbs and heads that would shortly be flying. Even someone as dim as Blair must know you’ve got a big problem on your hands when there are over 1.6 million people in your country following a religion like that.

If he doesn’t know, there are plenty of Jewish journalists who will point it out for him. There’s the neo-conservative Melanie Phillips in Britain, for example, who never met an indignant adverb she didn’t like, and the neo-conservative Mark Steyn in Canada, who never met an indignant Arab he didn’t kick. Reading their hard-hitting columns on Muslim psychosis, I was reminded of a famous scene in Charles Dickens’ notoriously anti-Semitic novel Oliver Twist (1839). The hero watches the training of the villainous old Jew Fagin put into action by the Artful Dodger:

What was Oliver’s horror and alarm to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman’s pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them both running away round the corner at full speed! He stood for a moment tingling from terror; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels and made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground.
In the very instant when Oliver began to run, the old gentleman, putting his hand to his pocket, and missing his handkerchief, turned sharp round. Seeing the boy scudding away, he very naturally concluded him to be the depredator; and shouting “Stop thief!” with all his might, made off after him. But the old gentleman was not the only person who raised the hue-and-cry. The Dodger and Master Bates, unwilling to attract public attention by running down the open street, had merely retired into the very first doorway round the corner. They no sooner heard the cry, and saw Oliver running, than, guessing exactly how the matter stood, they issued forth with great promptitude; and, shouting “Stop thief!” too, joined in the pursuit like good citizens.

“Wicked Muslims!” our two Jewish Artful Dodgers are shouting. “Can’t you see how they hate the West and want to destroy us?” Well, yes, we can, but some of us can also see who the original West-haters are. Mark Steyn claims not to be Jewish, but his ancestry shines through time after time in his writing. Above all, there’s his dishonesty. One week he’s mocking anti-Semites for claiming that the tiny nation of Israel could have such a powerful influence for bad on the world’s affairs. The following week he’s praising the British Empire for having had such a powerful influence for good. You know, the world-bestriding British Empire – as created by a tiny nation called Britain.

If the Brits could do it openly and honestly, Mr Steyn, why can’t the yids do it by fraud and deception? And the yids have done it, of course. They’ve run immigration policy and “race relations” in Europe and America since the 1960s, and Steyn is very fond of pointing out what’s in store for Europe as our Jew-invited non-white guests grow in number and really start to show their appreciation of our hospitality.

Funnily enough, I’ve never seen him point out that the same is in store for North America, which has its own rapidly growing non-white swarms. And when Steyn launches one of his regular attacks on the lunacies of multi-culturalism and anti-racism, a central fact always somehow seems to escape his notice. He recently once again bemoaned the psychotic “Western self-loathing” that has such a “grip on the academy, the media, the Congregational and Episcopal Churches, the ‘arts’ and Hollywood”. Exhibit one: the multi-culti, hug-the-world, “Let’s all be nice to the Muslims” memorial for 9/11. This was his list of those responsible for it:

Tom Bernstein... Michael Posner... Eric Foner... George Soros...
Well, that’s a Jew, a Jew, a Jew, and a Jew – sounds like a lampshade collector showing off his Auschwitz shelf. But fearless “Tell It Like It Is” Steyn, ever-ready to mock the “racial sensitivity” of deluded liberals, is himself very sensitive about race when it comes to the Chosen Ones. He’ll kick dark-skinned Muslims and their liberal appeasers till the sacred cows come home and he can start kicking them too, but just like Melanie Phillips he never whispers a word about the Jews who created liberal appeasement or about the enormous power Jews wield in “the academy, the media, the 'arts', and Hollywood”.

The same is true of all other Jewish “conservatives”. They’re shouting “Stop thief!” at the top of their voices and hoping that no-one will notice that they all belong to the biggest race of thieves who ever existed. Those bombs went off in London because Jews have stolen large parts of Britain from their rightful White inhabitants and handed them over to the non-white followers of a psychotic alien religion. When non-whites commit more and worse atrocities in future, you won’t need to ask who’s really responsible: it’s liberal Jews like Tom Bernstein and George Soros, who organize mass immigration and the anti-racism industry, and “conservative” Jews like Mark Steyn and Melanie Phillips, who distract White attention from the racial motives of Jews like Soros and Bernstein. Heads they win, tails we lose – liberal, “conservative”, they’re all of them Jews.

Re:Whodunnit? Jewdunnit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836366)

tl/dr

More precisely (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836194)

Apps that provide services to a small minority of British citizens. Or... is Starbucks very common in the UK?

£10000 for a flashing light? (5, Insightful)

bool2 (1782642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836198)

"...and was shocked that people would believe it to be unseemly and even objectionable that a government was using modern technology to help its citizens in noble tasks like avoiding becoming roadkill when their motorocycles break down or keep track of potential jobs without being stuck at home all day -- the very things you'd want government to do with your tax dollars" I can't imagine why anyone would object to spending £10000 on an app to make a flashing light. And I have to wonder how many unemployed people who own an expensive iPhone will be using government jobs websites... Lets face facts here. The iPhone is a heavily locked down platform run by control freaks in California and owned by a very small percentage of the population. Tell me again why should my tax go towards supporting that platform?

Effective spending. (0, Offtopic)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836220)

Cutting spending in a depression is rarely a good strategy. The rich will of course continue to do just about as well - because they just go into crisis mode and order more folks fired to cut spending. That means all the non-rich are left competing for fewer positions with many, many times the number of other potential job seekers.

Cutting overall government spending doubles this effect by denying more public jobs, while at the same time cutting services that would have helped them make ends meet while there is no practical access to jobs.

Ideally, what you'd do is tax actual non-business wealth where possible to fight hoarding, so the super-wealthy will be pressured to push money into the market and infrastructure more actively, and less into 'bonuses'. You use that money to help keep the lower and middle classes afloat - where that money will go immediately back into the marketplace, redoubling its effect. You also use that money to fund the development of more small businesses, while cracking down more monopolies, freeing up legal and anti-competitive hurdles that these companies face currently in the current marketplace.

The conservative "austerity" arguments are cruel - meant to deny the downtrodden any meager assistance in order to solve a problem they seem unwilling to solve when they have power. Conservatives tend to run up debt while in power, to promote the idea that they can make the nation strong, then complain about debt AND weakness while out of power, as the nation attempts to rebuild after their spending orgy (usually funneled to private interests).

Ryan Fenton

Re:Effective spending. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836400)

Look, if it upsets you that much, post your address and I'll be glad to mail you a hankie. A nice pink one to go with your politics.

It's the upcoming cuts, not the recession (5, Insightful)

Christianson (1036710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836222)

The issue here isn't that there's iPhone apps being developed during a recession, it's that money is being invested in a duplication of services when the government is looking to slash spending by up to 40% [bbc.co.uk] across the board. When we're looking at a devastation of public services, it's hard to condone spending intended to benefit a minority of Britons with access to a luxury device.

Re:It's the upcoming cuts, not the recession (4, Funny)

tnok85 (1434319) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836408)

Listen. The coolness of Britannia is at risk here. I can't imagine any course of action except to accelerate these iPhone app plans, unless Britannia wants to take over for France as the uncool kid on the block.

HTML5? (3, Informative)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836236)

With the capabilities of HTML5 you'd think they'd do webapps instead of platform-specific ones.

Re:HTML5? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836304)

As far as government apps go, they'd probably work fine on HTML 3 anyway

just plain insulting (3, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836260)

They sort of buried the lead. It's not "the latest technology," it's an iPhone. Programming a government anything for an Apple product is extremely unfair and insulting to people smart enough to use something better from another company.

Re:just plain insulting (1)

ninjakoala (890584) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836666)

"Better" for some. The fact that you prefer one brand or piece of tech over another does not make you smarter - it's just your opinion.

All other considerations aside, there's a good reason why iPhone is the target platform for lots of applications: It was the first phone to pull off a mobile computing platform. Yes, Android phones, Blackberry phones (and more) are lovely too, but to be honest, I think developing for iPhone is the mobile equivalent of developing for Windows: It's the platform where there's the biggest chance someone will use your product - due to sheer volume and users' behavioral patterns. I think it's not the best use of neither money nor technology, but if you have to settle on applications for a mobile platform, I can't see a stronger alternative. Not right now at least.

In this case the only reason to develop an application instead of a website is so you can use it for reference while out of coverage. I don't know how relevant that is in the UK, but here in Denmark I would never have to walk far to regain coverage (yeah, no AT&T here, so only real problem is in valleys with no coverage).

Proprietary formats (-1, Offtopic)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836282)

The license fee is controversial. The only argument ever used to defend it is that it allows the BBC to make 'niche' programmes that couldn't be made by an advertising-funded broadcaster.

Money from the license fee should be used solely to produce content, whether that be TV and radio shows, or web sites. In my opinion the BBC shouldn't use the license fee for anything else.

It's also a bad idea to support proprietary formats/platforms such as the iPhone and Real audio/video. (I pay my license fee, but there is some BBC web content I can't view because it is only provided in Real format, and I refuse to harm my computer by installing any Real software.)

The BBC may argue that the money for the iPhone app isn't coming from the license fee. They may say that it comes from selling BBC shows abroad, or from adverts on BBC America. But none of the BBC's content would exist if it wasn't for the license fee, so all resulting revenue from overseas sales should be ploughed back in to making quality TV, radio and web sites for British citizens.

If a TV viewer in Britain doesn't pay their license fee then they can be fined heavily and, ultimately, sent to prison. In that light, license fee payers have a very strong right to demand that our money is used responsibly.

Re:Proprietary formats (4, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836390)

The summary is fucking awful. This isn't about the BBC *at all*, they're the ones reporting the story about the *Government* wasting money on largely worthless iPhone apps rather than focusing on useful, cross platform ones.

Re:Proprietary formats (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836526)

Thank you. I didn't RTFA. As you say, nothing to do with the BBC, who are not developing iPhone apps.

Apologies to all for the wasted bytes.

Oh Noes, Innovation (1)

Alcoholist (160427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836310)

Heaven forbid a government finding new and innovative ways to deliver services to its people. Maybe the iPhone is not the best platform, but at least they are trying.

too much on too few (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836340)

i think its less to do with using technology, or apps only being for iphone, or the total amount spent- its the amount spent on single apps. i can't believe £10'000 or £40'000 is good value for money for a single app.

i'm not sure how much you pay an iphone developer but if you pay them £40 per hour then thats 1'000 hours and thats 125 full time days (4 months) to make an app that demonstrates how to change a wheel. i've never made an iphone app, but i can't believe it takes 125 days fulltime to make a basic one.

there will be lots more stories of excess and waste from the previous government coming out and not all of it will be tech related. this story isn't an attack on technology, its an attack on the previous government's waste.

Re:too much on too few (2, Interesting)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836406)

There's a lot more to building an app than paying a coder. I think GBP40K is incredibly cheap once you factor in management time, meetings etc. Heck, you can easily rack up GBP300K just deciding whether to investigate something (BTDT/got tshirt).

Yeah, they should shut down TV and just do radio (-1, Flamebait)

gig (78408) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836354)

The hysteria around iPhone is fucking ridiculous. iPhone apps are written in either C or HTML5. C is cross-platform, apps are easily ported to any other C platform, e.g. any Unix, Windows, PlayStation, Wii, Xbox, and even many set-top boxes potentially. That is why Pac-Man and DOOM run on iPhone even though both were written many years before iPhone existed. If any phone maker other than Apple had any fucking clue, iPhone apps could easily be ported to other phones. Native apps could be written for iPhone and other handsets like for many years apps have run on both Mac and Windows, like for many years all Unix systems have run the same apps. But nobody else offers a C API yet other than Apple, in spite of most phones running Unix. HTML5 of course can be authored in such a way that it installs and runs on everything, although you'll need to use a 3rd party browser on Microsoft platforms.

So iPhone apps are not an exclusive club which you can only enter by buying an iPhone. The BBC writing an iPhone app is not forcing you to buy an iPhone, or even encouraging you. And they can easily charge and make the cost of development back. Tell your non-Apple handset maker to provide a fucking C API and if they don't then buy a phone that does next time or STFU. Your destiny is in your own hands.
 

Re:Yeah, they should shut down TV and just do radi (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836432)

"And they can easily charge and make the cost of development back."

Wait. We pay them (taxpayer money) to make the application, then pay them to get it?

Re:Yeah, they should shut down TV and just do radi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836456)

you mean like this

http://developer.android.com/sdk/ndk/index.html

rockygms08@gmail.com (-1, Offtopic)

bebo123 (1851148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836364)

Sapience Info Solution has a Team of Highly Expierenced & dedicated professionals from different fields like Business Process Outsourcing, Knowledge Process Outsourcing Technical Services, Finance & Administrauion etc.

Best Of Both Worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836404)

These ridiculous public sector projects are developed by people who want the stability of public sector employment and the cachet of working in a hi-tech environment. If you want to draw a public sector salary and build a public sector pension then please get the basics right and provide a useful service to *all* citizens. If you want to work with the latest, greatest hi-tech whiz-bang then join a start-up. Please stop CV building at tax-payers' expense.

Not Again!!!! (1)

BangaIorean (1848966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836462)

A debate on whether iPhone apps are useful or not is a different matter, but I find this statement ridiculous:

"bad in Britain for the government to use modern technology during a recession"

The British government can request all its citizens to start living in caves and learn how to hunt animals. That's the easiest solution to 'recession', isn't it? In general, I have a high opinion of any regime that tries to keep abreast of the times and embraces the latest technology. That's rare enough in any Government in the first place. Criticize the use and limited reach of iPhones if you wish, but stop claiming that 'use of modern technology is bad during recession'

Cheaper than websites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836472)

Whilst I see the points being made, even £40000 is cheaper than the websites they make. Some had £4 to £5 million for planning alone. If you want a tipoff, get SERCO to make a site for you ( who then subcontract to BT)

Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32836488)

As someone who has recently spent time on the "dole" in the UK I was surprised to see how many people had smartphones - a substantial amount of which were iPhones.
I figure it you need income support and iPhone is out of reach but I guess if Tesco sells them "every little helps".

I don't think developing iPhone apps is a thing any government should do.
Providing API's to services and letting commercial/public developers slog it out in the marketplace seems a much wiser way to go.

The "government" (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836592)

For the uneducated masses to understand how government works, they first got to get it through their thick skulls that there is no such thing as the government.

It is not Number 10, or the White House and it is not the IRS. Instead you have a huge pile of loosely connected organisations and individuals who might in some part be funded with tax-payers money and get their instructions probably in some way from elected officials... but think about it. Just how often does the IRS need to talk to the president (using American examples since Americans would be confused by other governments, but the rest of the world is smart enough to translate it to their own system)?

What you end up with is a something that makes a mega-corp like Microsoft or even one of the asian giants look like a garage setup. And just as MS does some odd things you wouldn't expect like developing a new method for inserting batteries, so does the government.

Now take this story and substitute iPhone app with website. A LOT of you suggest it would have been better to develop a webapp that EVERYONE could access.

WHOOOP WHOOP WHOOP, BIASED SLASHDOT NERD WARNING

Everyone can access the web? No they can't. Not everyone and therefor by the logic that since not everyone has an iPhone no iPhone apps should be developed, the government should also develop no websites. Or for that matter have a phone line.

PART of the government job is to think of the future. iPhone apps are "the future" in the same way as Websites were 15 years ago. Part of this money isn't just for providing a useful service to a handful of people, but about finding out about new technolgies that might chance how the government communicates with its citizens.

When the first government website launched, it wasn't just to do its own job, but to test how this might work out in the future. And some of this will result in nothing and some... well how much do you use the internet today? Remember, the internet, brought to you by the US government. NOT by private industry. Could you imagine the internet if MS had developed it?

What people who call for government to do only the absolute minimum and never spend any money seem to desire is a world that declines until nothing is being done anymore. They would no doubt have protested fitting the police station with a phone, since only the rich had phones anyway. And why should the bobby have a car when only 1% of the population has cars? Why build hardened roads for those rich bastards with cars?

The British should know what happens when government spends the least possible. Have they forgotten the year the railroads sucked even more then usual when everything had to be fixed in a hurry after decades of neglect?

Yes, some money will be wasted. But it is part of the process of society constantly changing. Yes, you could say that investment in a BBS site was a waste of money. You would be wrong but you could say it. Let people who are willing to explore things run the country. Else you end up with a country run by accountants. Laywers are bad enough, but accountants? Here is a simple sum: You are not cost effective, please step into the suicide boot.

Re:The "government" (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836642)

Everyone can access the web? No they can't.

What proportion of people have an I phone?

What propostion of people can access the web?

Not everyone and therefor by the logic that since not everyone has an iPhone no iPhone apps should be developed, the government should also develop no websites.

It would very much appear that you are in no position to be leturing the rest of slashdot about logic.

The right way (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836610)

If the government had gone about this the right way, it would have provided a phone independent API to its services, so that iPhone, Android, Symbian (any any other) developers could produce applications to access those services. That way it could have got its tools without paying for them. It makes you wonder whether any of Infoworlds investers have their fingers in the gravy train....

The Register points out that in other news, the Government has spend £35million ($50million) on developing a single website see:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/30/coi_website/ [theregister.co.uk]

No iPhone Apps, Please — I dont have an iPho (1)

Mechanist.tm (1124543) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836692)

No iPhone Apps, Please — I dont have an iPhone. author of this article obviously has an iPhone.

BBC is not "the government" (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32836714)

it is an independent corporation funded by the licence fee.
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