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

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.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jun 24, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Reader Comments

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 Ron

some of you reader need to get with the program. It's no wonder the government is so far behind in technology. It's the knuckles heads unwilling to step out of the box, embrace technology and see the good it can have that keeps us where we are. This is the information age. The stone age ended a long time ago. The use of technology teaches us and helps to form new ideas and new ways to do something. Good Job SSA! and too all the critical readers, WHAT USEFUL CONTRIBUTION HAVE YOU MADE? OH! NONE! THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT!! and no I dont work for the SSA

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Steve

I'm still convinced this is an unnecessary toy the SSA put out. Where in their mission statement does it say that the SSA's mission includes helping people figure out a name for their baby? I guess what really grates at me about stuff like this is that it looks like some SESer decided we can do this cool new thing so we should do this cool new thing. No thought given to whether or not the cool new thing really had much of anything to do with their agency's mission. My own agency has issues with that mindset, but we are slowly trying to get people to think about the connection to mission before they spend gobs of resources on these shiny new toys.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011

SSA should add advertising to this app. Let some government contractors, service providers and vendors place ads and pay SSA. THIS WOULD HELP FUND APPS LIKE THIS PLUS PROVIDE MUCH NEEDED REVENUE to Social Security funds. Or is that illegal too?

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Matt Atlanta

As someone who has had to wade through the process of obtaining a SSN for my child and paying $40 to expediate the process, I think this app sounds like a great idea. If you look past the "fun" stuff, it would be very useful to be able to apply for a SSN rather than filling out forms and mailing them, even in this digital age. Let the pundits complain but apps like this are about more open and transparent government.

Mon, Jun 27, 2011

What is wrong with a friendly government application that will some entertaining historical name information along with the necessary social security application for new parents? If anything this is proactive thinking. Parents tend to research names before the child is born and will also be reminded to obtain that important social security number for the new arrival. It may be helpful if parents consider the popularity of child's name to be chosen, maybe even easier for the child to get through school and life with a popular name. What is so wrong with adding some human interest to the process?

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