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Review: Florida's Pointless, Boring New Smartphone App

The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation has just released the first-ever mobile app created by a state agency in the U. S. of A. As with anything bearing the mark of DBPR, the app is relentlessly exciting; a thrill-a-minute, knuckle-whitening tour de force as infpormafdklj as it is elsekfjav###

Sorry. Fell asleep at my keyboard.

Actually, the app's pretty damned boring. It downloads fast and works quickly, even in areas with dodgy 3G. But so what? The app, it seems, has only two purposes: To allow users to verify that a given business is licensed, and to keep us up to date on the words and thoughts of the DBPR's head honcho, Secretary Charlie Liem.

The app performs the former task admirably. On the home screen, you've got options: "Verify License By Name" or "Verify License By License Number." Since I don't carry around a list of businesses' license numbers, I choose to "Verify ... By Name." I am then given the choice to search for an "Individual's" or for that of an "Organization." I pick "Organization." I type the name of the org I wish to verify -- in this case, "To The Moon Marketplace," in Wilton Manors. I click "search," and there it is! I learn that To The Moon is located at 2205 Wilton Drive (which I already knew), that its license number is "Bev1617379," that its license type is "Retail Beverage," and that the expiration date for that license is March 31, 2012. Whoopie!

Yeah, this information has some usefulness to those trying to ferret out unlicensed businesses, or verify that so-and-so is the true and legal proprietor of such-and-such. And it's useful to journalists who might wish to determine just who's who in the jungle of SoFla business culture.

But is that meaningful? The app only works on Androids and iPhones, which means anybody capable of downloading the app could just as easily use their phone's browser to visit the DBPR's website and have access to the exact same info.

Which makes me think the real reason for the app is to put us in touch with Secretary Liem. Issue after issue of his weekly newsletter, "The Bottom Line," fills up the display when you hit the bottom button on the app's home screen. These briefs may be the dullest features of a dull, dull app. They read as one part fawning homage to Governor Skeletor ("During his address, the Governor talked about ending unnecessary regulations ... I know our department wholeheartedly supports this goal because above everything else, getting Florida back to work is our primary focus"), and one-part lesson in how not to talk to a politically polyglot constituency. For example:

Here are DBPR, we will remain focused and will maintain the highest standards of excellence for the customers we serve. We have to continue to offer great service because many of our customers have no where else they can go for help. Please let us know how we can continue to improve our service to the state and make Florida the best place to be in business.

Well, Liem, if you really wanna know:

  • Learn how to spell "at."
  • Stop referring to us as "customers." We're citizens. There's a difference.
  • Remember: "Nowhere" is one word.
  • Quit with the pointless apps. You guys are supposed to kill government waste; not make it more futuristic.

Follow The Juice on Twitter: @ TheJuiceBPB.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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