Stimulus Accountability: There’s An App For That
By Andrew Seifter, Good Jobs First
Thanks to the Recovery.gov website, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has proven to be the most transparent federal spending bill in U.S. history. Now all that data can literally be right at your fingertips.
A free Recovery Act application is now available for the iPhone and iPad, giving interested citizens the ability to instantly look up detailed information about stimulus projects in their community or wherever else they happen to be. Indeed, with its GPS-based sensitivity, the app transforms your iPhone into a sensor for stimulus dollars, the ultimate tool for debating Recovery Act skeptics. Like Recovery.gov, the new app includes a wealth of information including sections about project status, contractors and job creation, although the job figures continue to be problematic.
Perhaps the best thing about the app, which maps out every ARRA grant, loan and contract, is a feature that allows users to submit feedback and a photograph about specific projects. That makes it easier than ever to report fraud, waste or abuse concerning Recovery Act funds, or just document a stimulus success story.
That's a point Recovery.gov Director Mike Wood hammered home when I spoke with him recently. Wood noted that the feedback feature is intended to be useful for people who "like [certain ARRA projects] or have complaints." He added that the app is part of Recovery.gov's efforts to ramp up what they are doing with social media, giving citizens a new tool to engage in a "dialogue" about the stimulus with the government - and each other.
The idea to create an iPhone app to track stimulus projects originated with state employees in Arkansas, which developed the first state-based ARRA project search application for the iPhone in May 2009. But the new app is more advanced and covers projects all across the country, making it a nice step forward for government accountability.