5 Reasons Public Sector Organizations Should Have a Native Mobile App in 2016

In a previous post, I discussed why public sector organizations and non-profits should adopt a mobile strategy and briefly mentioned that they should consider developing a native mobile app. In this article, I give five reasons why a public sector organization should develop a native mobile app.

Native Mobile App Advantage #1: Deliver Mobile Friendly Content

One of the benefits of a native mobile app is that it will deliver mobile friendly content. Any information that is displayed on the organization’s website can be repurposed and added to an app so it can be easily read on a smart phone. When adding content, it’s important to remember there’s limited real estate so you need to pick content that’s most used. Content that is rarely viewed on the web site doesn’t have to be included in the app.

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Native Mobile App Advantage #2: Convenience:

Smart Phone users spend 80% of their time using apps vs. 20% of time on the web. I think a big reason is convenience. Think about it: Would you rather use the Facebook app or launch Safari to access it? If you have content on your website that is regularly accessed, you should strongly consider developing an app to make it more convenient for your users.

Native Mobile App Advantage #3: Push Notifications

One of the most powerful features that can be found on an app is the ability to send out push notifications. Push notifications have a read rate around 80%. Compare that to email which has a dismal read rate of 22%. If you think about it, if your phone vibrates, you instinctively glance down to see if it’s an important message. That’s the power of mobile which is why apps are only going to increase in popularity.

Image Source: PUBL 

Native Mobile App Advantage #4: App Smartphone Capabilities

A native mobile app has the ability to leverage smartphone’s capabilities. For public sector organizations and non-profits, some of the things to consider include:

GPS: The ability to provide directions and show resources on a map

Push Notifications: Refer to Native Mobile App Advantage #3

Camera: A picture says a thousand words. The ability to send an image provides faster communication

Tap to Communicate: The ability to tap the screen for emails, calls, and text really facilitates communication


Image Source: Fasturtle

Native Mobile App Advantage #5: Offline Mode

Probably the biggest advantage of an app over mobile web sites is the ability to work offline. A mobile web site needs an internet connection to function in comparison to an app that can function without Internet access. This is best for a population that either has unreliable data connection or for economic reasons cannot afford a Wi-Fi data plan.

A native app is a communication tool for their customers which if used and promoted properly can become a valuable asset to any public sector organization or non-profit.


By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Who Owns the Source Code?

Source CodeA client had developed an app and asked us to do some minor work on their existing app. I told him that we would need access to the source code so the client went back to the original developer to get the source code only to find that the developer claimed the source code as his intellectual property and refused to provide it. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen this source code ownership issue. Here are some of the implications of not having the source code to your app:

  • You are forever tied to the developer. Any modification, bug fix, or upgrade has to go through that developer. This is problematic because the developer could raise the price of development and is problematic if that developer becomes sick, busy with other projects, etc.
  • Raising funds or selling your project becomes more difficult because there’s a question of who owns the intellectual property.

Common Law

(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer; if this is a concern, please get good legal counsel). In general, the author of content owns the copyright. In the case of a software developer, it’s the person physically typing on the key board to create the code. An exception occurs under the “Work for Hire” doctrine where the work is developed by an employee with the scope of their employment. However, when contractors are used, this becomes a little more unclear.

Personal Opinion

If I hire someone to buy a house, at the end of the project, I want the keys to it. In a similar fashion, if I pay someone to develop an app for me, I would expect to have the source code upon completion. At Apptology, this is our general policy. The exception is when we develop an app based off one of our templates. In which case, the template is our intellectual property.


If you are having an app developed by a contractor, have an open discussion about the source code ownership as part of the vetting process. If you don’t agree with their source code policy, move on. If you decide to go with that developer, make sure the ownership of the source code is spelled out in the contract.

The Three Basic App Monetization Strategies

If you are thinking about making money from developing apps, there are three basic app monetization strategies that you should consider:

1. Price: The most obvious way to make money is by selling it on the app store. On the Apple App store, the price can range from .99 to $999.99. Both Apple and Google will take 30% but they both have pretty good systems that will deposit the funds directly into your bank account. From what I’ve observed, putting a price on your app is a barrier for people to download your app. If your goal is to make a profit, my suggestion is to look at the freemium model. However, if your app solves a business problem and there’s a definite ROI (Return on Investment), then you should charge accordingly.

2. Freemium Model: The freemium model is where the user can download the app for free and monetization is done by using in-app purchase. There are typically three categories for in app purchases:

  • Trial version or limited function app where the in-app purchase unlocks the full functionality of the app
  • Virtual goods in a game (this got a lot of bad press when kids spent thousands of dollars on smurfberries)
  • Subscriptions for a newsstand app or content related app

Here’s a snapshot of the 27 top grossing apps on the app store. Only 2 apps in this group are paid. As such, I typically advise client to go the route of the freemium model.

3. Advertising: Mobile advertising is expected to balloon at a rate of 75% this year to $31 billion. Typically people think of banner ads. Facebook has done a superb job of monetizing using native ads. There are other creative adverting mechanisms like Kiip which rewards developer and users when they make an achievement in a game and AppEnvoy which puts the advertising in the push notification.

Everything Else

I also want to point out that the monetization strategies in this post does not include apps that deliver a service like Uber.  Another way to make money from your app is get acquired. WhatsApp is the entrepreneur’s dream when it got staggering $19 billion from Facebook. If I look at WhatsApp, I’m actually puzzled by their revenue model. They don’t have advertising nor do they really have a subscription base. My theory is that they somehow monetize from the user data; but since they don’t respond to my inquires (I’m kidding), we may never know.

Final Thoughts

So in conclusion, if you want to make money from your app, make it so that your app will get acquired for some staggering amount by Facebook or Google (if you figure this out, please call me). If that fails, my recommendation is to go the freemium route and then figure out whether you’ll use in-app purchasing, mobile advertising, or a combination of both.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy. Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.