Connected: many appy returns

"There's an app for that."

Phone appsBy Matthew O'Driscoll

Have you heard these words and wondered what the heck an ‘app’ was?

In essence, an app is just an abbreviation of the word application but an app also refers to a piece of software that can run on the internet, on your computer, on your phone or any other smart device.

In the past, internet users would visit a www site and browse the content until they found information pertinent to them. However, with the advent of apps, people just download an app.

Usually it has a single purpose – e.g. online banking. From that day on, they are able to get exactly what they want, when they want it, at the touch of a button. 

The simplicity and immediacy of apps have meant big business for both small-time developers and global tech companies. 

After 18 months of operation, Apple's app store, a marketplace for digital downloads, saw 500 million apps downloaded. That was in 2009. By March this year, a phenomenal 25 billion apps had been downloaded. 

Organisations all over the world are now scrambling to provide their information, products and services via apps. Apps are being touted as the way to do work, the way to save work and the way to track work.

In the US, the Department of Labour has developed a simple app that replaces the traditional timesheet. 

In the UK, when the government announced its partnership with Facebook to crowd source ideas on how to save public money, the public asked “how?”  The answer: “through an app”.

In NZ this year, Treasury launched an app that provided access to Budget material and reduced the need for printed documents. Finance Minister Bill English was quoted as saying: “This is a good example of the Government’s focus on delivering better, more innovative, public services.”

Cynics might wonder if, given this government’s penchant for replacing vital-services with 0800 numbers, how long before they replace call centre staff with apps?

But it’s not all doom and gloom.  If apps have proven one thing, it’s that they do a very good job of bringing information to the people. 


Unions in the app space

Unions around the world have also been busy in the app space.  Some offer updates from the union, data on your rights at work, press releases, alerts, calls to action and campaign information, journals, and fee tracking.  But no one app or union seems to do it all.

In an article posted on, Walton Pantland asks what would a union smart phone app actually do?  He argues that “the more functionality it has, the better – but the more difficult it would be to build”. 

He concludes that a good first step is to “beef up . . .sections of the main union website, where members can log in and manage their own details.”

Which is exactly where the PSA is right now. 

The PSA is developing more functionality on our main website as well as a basic app that will share our content from Facebook, twitter, YouTube and media releases direct to your smart device. 


This article is from the September 2012 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.