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Tech Talk

The apps to form a more perfect Union

1/4/2017

countableLike it or not, America is living through the most politicized times since former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. Even with the general election months behind us, emotions are still raw over a terse campaign season, its various outcomes and future implications of victories up and down the ballot. Whether you’re elated or dejected, the immediate political future has more people tuned in and engaged than ever. The tug of war between those determined to keep elected officials true to their campaign promises and opponents who are hoping to undercut them at every decision will be the most compelling competition of 2017. No matter which side you find yourself on, finding the proper tools to stay informed is paramount to nearly anything else, and once again, technology is there to fill the need.

With the debate raging over the veracity of longstanding journalism sources and the onslaught of wholesale fictitious “news” online, the only surefire way to understand what is happening in the chambers of Congress is direct accounts of the bills and laws being debated. NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, FOX, NPR, PBS and hoards of newspapers cover these concerns, but all too often, top billing is given to political theatrics instead of governmental specifics. True political junkies know old school statehouse reporting can deliver the real dirt and cut through all the pomp and circumstances known as politics.

The digital era revamp of the statehouse reporter comes in the form of applications like Countable. Launched in 2014, Countable delivers quick reads of bills coming to Congress, forthcoming decisions and developments concerning the president, as well as arguments for and against from both sides of the political divide. But, as the end of 2016 showcased (and presumably 2017 will follow suit), being informed does not seem to be enough anymore. A thriving democracy demands an involved citizenry to guide the hands of its elected officials, and Countable provides the tools for this paradigm as well.

Along with weekly summary emails telling users the hot-button issues hitting our nation’s capital, Countable users are also geo-located and tagged with the contact information for their Congressional representatives. Don’t like someone nominated for a presidential cabinet post? Well, Countable not only tells you whom to contact, but how to reach them. Never mind what legislation your senator or congressman has supported in the past or is likely to vote in the future, just knowing you can contact them and give your opinion as their constituent is empowering.

Of course, if highlights, breakdowns and contact information are not enough for you, there are deep-dive services that will supply you with a fire hose of political information. For these political addicts, the best tool is Congressional Record. Maintained by the Library of Congress, Congressional Record offers complete transcripts and guides to debates and political discourse held between elected officials. If you want to be unquestionably informed about our government, this application is the tool.

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Lest you forget, America is a representative democracy. Voters select the people who legislate what becomes a law and what dies in committee, but how those representatives come to their decision is based on the sway of the electorate. Once upon a time, simply reading the paper was enough to be informed. But in the modern war that is American politics, you better arm yourself with the best tools technology has to offer. ♦

 

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

 

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