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17 September 2012, 06:00
Suffolk County Council are launching their first ever mobile phone app.
The seven new apps, which make it easier for people to check if their school is open in bad weather, contact their local councillor and speak with the council via social networks are part of the County Council’s plan to make its services more accessible to Suffolk people – and save the authority money at the same time.
The apps were created by members of the public who were interested in developing mobile technology and went an 'app development day' in Ipswich in June.
Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s cabinetmember responsible for finance and IT, said:
“The way local people have come forward and helped us develop these apps so quickly shows just how much interest there is for this kind of thing.
“This is all about making it easier for people to get what they need from the council and ensuring that contact doesn’t interfere in their already busy lives.
“By bringing together all the ideas and talent we have in Suffolk, we’ve been able to create something that can really make a difference.”
17 year old Thomas O’Brian, from Woodbridge School near Ipswich, won top prize after designing the school closure apps. Because of what he achieved on the day, Thomas was subsequently offered a contract with global IT company Jadu – and is now their youngest software engineer.
Thomas said, "Before the app development day, I’d only had a bit of computer programming experience. But when it came to it, I took a really simple idea and tried to make something that would make life easier for lots of people.
“I can’t quite believe how much my idea has taken off following the app development day. I’ve now got a contract with an international IT company and my work will, hopefully, make a difference to real people.”
Following the success of the mobile app development day and the feedback received from teachers and school children, Suffolk is now working to introduce app programming skills into schools.
Sally Rundell, Suffolk County Council’s assistant director for learning and improvement, said:
“Our children and young people are living in a world where digital technologies are everywhere and this isn’t going to change – weneed to ensure that they continue to receive the best possible education toequip them for their futures.
“Working with Jadu, under the umbrella of our Raising the Bar programme, will give Suffolk young people the opportunity to develop communication and programming skills through an exciting and innovative interface. I am delighted that Jadu have chosen Suffolk schools to trial and develop Weejot for use in education.”
Suffolk’s app development day is thought to be a UK first for a local council and comes as demand for council services via mobile apps is increasing.