by Morgan Cullen
On my recent visit to Juneau, Curtis Clothier, Alaska's legislative information services manager, showed me a new iPhone app designed to help members and staff of the Alaska Legislature and the public stay connected to the legislative process.
I downloaded the app onto my phone and am amazed at how convenient and user friendly it is. The app provides information on committee schedules, bill status, the house and senate calendars, and contact information of every legislator in both chambers. It also allows the user to stream committee hearings directly from your phone and watch the proceedings in real time.
The new app was released at the beginning of session in January 2012 and has already received over 1,000 downloads from users around the globe. When I asked Curtis how he was able to roll this product out so quickly, he credited his staff for the success. "Staffers Heidi Gosho, Shay Wilson and Eric Reiter volunteered for the project even though they had no Mac programming experience and worked tirelessly over a 4 month period."
He was also quick to point out that this was just the beginning of many new improvements to come. "Another significant update for the App will be coming out in the next few weeks. This update will provide the first true 'iPad App' on the Apple App Store and will include the capability to download and modify PDF documents, and a new 'documents today' feature to allow easy access to current committee documents." They are also hoping to release a version of the Alaska Legislature app for Android devices before the end of the 2012 legislative session in April.
Besides the obvious convenience that the new app provides, it also helps the Legislature reduce the amount of paper required in the legislative process, thereby saving the environment and reducing costs.
Alaska modeled its legislative app on one developed by the New York Senate. According to Pam Greenberg, NCSL's expert on information technology, Alaska is one of at least four states that have developed mobile applications for iPhones, iPads or Android devices. More information is available at NCSL's "State Legislatures Mobile Websites."