The Sunlight Foundation, furthering its cause to increase transparency in the United Congress, launched an iPhone app on Wednesday that delivers updates from Congress in real-time.
Real Time Congress, as it is aptly called, presents an elegant and efficient interface on the iPhone for tracking actions, meetings and documents taking place in the legislative branch of the U.S. government. The home tab of the app presents "Live Floor Updates," literally real-time updates from the House and Senate floors.
Other tabs bring users to different screens where they can gain access to "Key Documents," "Whip Notices," and "Hearing Schedules." The "Key Documents" page looks particularly fruitful, as it presents users with memos and reports from the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service, Office of Management and Budget, party policy committees, and more.
The Foundation hopes that journalists, Hill staffers, bloggers, and maybe a few interested citizens will take advantage of the new application.
At the moment, the app lacks some critical features, like a search option and push notifications. But this is just the app's first iteration. Josh Ruihley, Sunlight's Technical Program Officer, says the latter feature is "definitely on the road map." And I can't imagine search would be left out in future updates.
Sunlight Labs, the non-partisan, non-profit group of developers and designers behind Real Time Congress for the iPhone, has already carried out similar projects, like the Web-based Real Time Congress and Open CRS Reader, another iPhone application. Open CRS Reader makes available all the documents on Open CRS, a Web service that itself makes available reports churned out by the Congressional Research Service, a taxpayer-funded think-tank, to Congress.
Similarly, Sunlight Labs in November launched an Android app called Congress, essentially a pocket Congressional directory, complete with up-to-date Congressional member contact information.
No word yet on whether a Real Time Congress app is in the works for Android.