Not everyone was ga-ga over SSA's baby name mobile app

Judging by reader comments, the Social Security Administration's new Baby Name Playroom mobile application should get a time out instead of a gold star, but a GSA official disagrees.

Not everyone was cooing over the Social Security Administration’s new Baby Name Playroom mobile application to help families select their newborn’s name.

The SSA announced the new application on June 14 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It allows users to sort through more than 45,000 names culled from SSA’s files, including the 1,000 most popular names each year since 1880. It also lists, trivia and a “surprise me” button, as well as links to applying for a baby’s Social Security number, children’s benefits and other financial and health tips.

But several readers wanted to throw out the SSA app with the bathwater, based on comments they submitted to Federal Computer Week.

“Is this REALLY what we want the Social Security Administration to be working on? A free app for baby names?! No wonder why people are getting fed up with government spending,” was one of the examples published on June 21.

“Leave the cute toys for the private sector to develop,” asked Steve, another commenter.

SSA officials were not immediately available, so I asked Gwynne Kostin, director of mobile for the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, if the readers had a point.

She noted that along with the baby names, the mobile app provides useful information about its programs, including how to get a SSA for a baby.

“That is certainly part of the SSA’s mission,” Kostin said, and using mobile technology to deliver the information is very cost effective for some populations.

As for letting the private sector develop more mobile applications with government data, Kostin said to bring it on. The White House’s and Health and Human Services Department’s Health Data Initiative are just two examples where federal agencies are releasing thousands of new databases to the public to be used by private developers.

“The government’s release of data is leading to more innovation,” she said.