GSA to phase out apps.gov portal

Friday - 11/30/2012, 4:12pm EST

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

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The General Services Administration is phasing out the Apps.gov portal.

GSA spokeswoman Jackie Stewart confirmed the decision today as part of the agency's efforts to streamline delivery of its services.

"All of the services listed on Apps.gov will still be available on GSA Advantage at www.gsaadvantage.gov, and agencies can access free social media applications at www.howto.gov," Stewart said in an email to Federal News Radio. "Simplifying these customer-facing websites is a testament to GSA's commitment to being responsive to our customers and to promoting effective and efficient government."

The Office of Management and Budget tasked GSA to develop a cloud computing storefront and apps store. GSA launched it in September 2009 with great fanfare.

Vivek Kundra, then the federal chief information officer, said the goal of the apps storefront was to make it easier for agencies to adopt cloud services and mobile applications.

"One big barrier has been the process to acquire cloud computing," Kundra said at the time. "We want to streamline the process, move toward central certification so industry doesn't have to get certified from every agency to offer their solutions. We also want to make sure we are focused on business problems, and not just the technology itself."

But agencies didn't use the portal to buy apps.

Tom Suder, president of Mobilegov, said there was no clear market for the apps.

"For smaller purchases that could be used on a government credit card, there are plenty of commercial sites to buy commodity products," he said. "For larger 'product purchases' there are invariably many options available to the 'product' that are service-oriented," he said. "For example, no one is going to buy a Talent Acquisition Suite with a one-paragraph description for $599,985.97 and 'add it to their cart.' A better purpose for the apps.gov 'real estate' is to maybe repurpose it for an enterprise mobile store for GSA that could serve other agencies."

GSA reported in the fiscal 2011 Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies annual report that there were more than 3,000 cloud-based products and services. Apps.gov received about 3,800 web visits a month. Agencies have purchased more than $5 million in cloud computing services and products from the site.

Suder added GSA has implemented several successful projects over the last few years, including data.gov and apps.usa.gov.

"Not everything works and I give them kudos for pulling a project that didn't pan out despite best efforts," he said.

Dave McClure, GSA's associate administrator in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said in February GSA was applying some of the lessons learned from apps.gov to the online marketplace of cloud services it was planning on developing.

"There certainly contract thresholds or spending thresholds that determine whether someone can actually enter into the agreement, and those vary across the agencies and according to legal interpretation," he said at the time. "When we stood up apps.gov, nothing was put through an authority to operate or a FedRAMP process. It was simply an illustration of services available. We would have to determine whether those government providers have been 'FedRAMPed' and if they are providing low, moderate or high levels of security for other government customers."

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