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Campus Notebook: GPO App Traces Presidential Documents, Movements

Mobile-phone applications can help people find the nearest restaurant, a friend or even a date. Now there’s an app for tracking the movements of the president of the United States.

The Government Printing Office and the Office of the Federal Register at the National Archives unveiled a new app Wednesday that lets users view on their mobile devices the president’s executive orders, speeches and statements, among other things.

The app also has a “geolocation” feature that links presidential activities with the locations where presidential speeches and events have occurred, all visible on a map.

It’s the first time this technology has been used in an application built and produced through the GPO, which has already rolled out the Congressional Members’ Guide and fiscal 2013 budget in app form.

This is also the first time the GPO, in search of ways to distinguish itself on the digital stage, has put out an app that might appeal to an audience outside the Beltway.

The Members’ guide app is an important tool for anyone who regularly comes to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and might need to quickly recall the geography of their districts or even what the Members look like. The budget application is geared toward policy wonks interested in the minutiae of the appropriations process.

“The [presidential documents] application is really limitless in terms of who can make use of this information,” GPO’s chief technology officer, Richard Davis, told Roll Call. “It’s not really targeted to any group of the population.”

Federal Register Director Charley Barth said the app will attract interest across a side spectrum, from teachers and administrators at presidential libraries to teenagers and college-aged adults who are impressed by the innovative features.

“Ultimately, we were looking for the ‘wow’ factor, the ‘fun’ factor, on the presentation level of this,” Barth said.

The app, produced during the course of about 13 weeks by a three-person team, will draw from information and activities going back to January 2009, when the GPO first began making a daily compilation of presidential documents available online. Barth and Davis hope to eventually make data available that goes back further, at least to the presidency of George H.W. Bush.

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