Wanted: Fair Wages Mobile App

Labor Department calls on citizens to create a mobile app, using government data, that shows which businesses pay workers fairly.
Mobile Government: 10 Must-Have Smartphone Apps
Mobile Government: 10 Must-Have Smartphone Apps
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Uncle Sam is enlisting the public's help to create a smartphone application that shows citizens which U.S. businesses are paying workers properly.

With the help of, which gives agencies the tools to reach out to entrepreneurs to tackle difficult technical problems, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division is asking citizen "solvers" to develop an app that lets people check whether businesses in their area are obeying labor laws. The app also would aid business owners considering working with a local company.

Developers who enter the DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge must design a mobile app that would take publicly available enforcement information from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for various industries and integrate it with other publicly available data sets and consumer-ratings Web sites, such as Yelp, and mapping tools, such as Google Maps.

"The app we would like to see developed would work with existing social media and would allow consumers to see if an establishment that they want to frequent has been in compliance with federal labor laws," said Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "The app could also prove a useful tool for job seekers and for companies that are deciding which firms they may want to do business with."

[ Read about the futuristic tech projects sponsored by the government's defense research agency. See 10 Breakthrough DARPA Technologies. ]

Participants have until Oct. 11 to submit their apps and judges will announce a winner in early November. The winner will receive a complimentary trip to Washington for the award ceremony, where he or she will meet with high-ranking government officials and other private-sector entrepreneurs.

The DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge builds on the Obama administration "digital government" strategy, which has called for agencies to keep up with the private sector in adopting mobile technologies and make it easier for the public to access government data.

It also reflects the administration's efforts to bring together "some of the smartest people from the private sector" with those in the public sector to transform the way services are delivered to citizens and save taxpayers money.

Obama acknowledged in a July 8 White House speech that although the government has made significant strides toward meeting these goals, there are hurdles ahead.

"We are the first to confess that progress has not always come quick and major challenges remain," Obama said, referring to the government's adoption of emerging technology. "But we've made huge swaths of your government more efficient and more transparent and more accountable than ever before."

In a CIO Council white paper published in May, the council predicted that "just as mobile functionality is sweeping across the consumer and corporate landscape, it is likely that it will come to dominate the public sector as well," noting, "there is a unique opportunity for the federal government to embrace mobile technologies at an early stage, thereby accelerating adoption, reducing risk and realizing benefits as soon as possible."

The DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge is intended to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor standards affecting employees in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

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