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The Apps That Connect Utah with Its On-The-Go Citizens

August 26, 2014
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The Apps That Connect Utah with Its On-The-Go Citizens
Utah has become leader in providing mobile-friendly government services. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Knowing what's going on with public transit and licensing status is easier than ever — thanks to smartphones, tablets and Utah’s long list of mobile-friendly services.

Most of us have probably complained about how the government is out of touch and outdated — both at the state and federal level, especially when it comes to technology.

With technology rapidly changing and advancing every day, it’s pertinent for the government to get tech savvy. After all, this year is the first time that Americans will access the Internet through mobile devices more than through their PC. With 55 percent of Internet activity coming through smartphones or tablets, governments really need to reassess their tech efficiency.

Enter Utah’s state government. Of the handful of states that actually have mobile-friendly websites, Utah is leading the pack by a huge margin.

So what makes the Beehive State so advanced? Well, back in 2009, it became the first state to develop an iPhone app that allowed users to see the licensure status of various professionals in the state. It also worked with Google Glass and created an app that notifies users about incoming trains and light rail as well as other transit-related information.

And that was five years ago. Since then, it has also created apps that provide information based on the user’s current location and one that allows mobile payments, making life a little easier for on-the-go workers.

Up next, Utah is working on how to adapt the new biometric fingerprint scanning feature that will be on the next Apple iPhone.

All of these advances only beg the question as to why other states aren’t implementing the same policies. Well, for many, the worry is that by updating to mobile-friendly websites, they will alienate other groups, particularly those of the older generation or people without access to mobile devices.

In that respect, Utah is lucky. By far, its residents are the youngest in the country: There are 2.8 million under the age of 18, making them much more receptive to anything tech-related. (It’s no surprise that 26 percent of the 1.63 million unique visitors to the state’s website in June accessed it through mobile devices.)

“Our mobile strategy is reaching new population groups that haven’t interacted with government before. That’s why total visits to the state’s websites have grown substantially in the last couple of years,” Dave Fletcher, the state’s chief technology office, tells Governing

Not only is the mobile-friendly website making it easier for citizens, but it’s taking some of the cost pressures off the government. With jobs being cut, the government is becoming more reliant upon technology, and mobile devices are a huge asset.

But it isn’t all smooth-sailing, though. There are always concerns about having to work with developers, managing security and keeping pace with new technology.

However, for Utah, the benefits definitely outweigh these challenges.

Hopefully, by following Utah’s example, other states will start implementing the same technology. In this new age, it’s about the time the government tells its citizens: “yes, there is an app for that.”

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