Should government web sites be required to have mobile-friendly versions?
Last week we put together a site that advised on the current status of the fires burning in California (calfire.mobi, read more about it here). We did this partially because we thought it might be useful to people, but also because we think it can serve as an example for other public advisory sites in general.
This got me thinking about the broader issue of making information available to the public: should all government / semi-state bodies be required to create mobile-friendly versions of their web sites? Some governments have already taken a position on making their web content available to disabled people by mandating accessibility standards for their websites. As an example, the UK government has proposed that in the name of "inclusive e-government" all government websites must meet Level Double-A of the W3C WCAG guidelines by December 2008. In the USA, Section 508 was enacted to give "disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others".
So why not take accessibility one step further? If the guiding principle of accessibility is inclusiveness then surely a great next step is to broaden the classes of device that the information can be viewed on. It seems clear that having mobile-friendly versions of government sites will make the information more freely available to more people—not everyone has a PC after all. For the particular case of public advisory sites this seems particularly relevant—in times of disaster/emergencies it is particularly important that information is available as many ways as possible.
Note: there is already some relevant work going on in the W3C, in two separate areas:
- Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group - Mobile Accessibility Task Force
- HTML Design Principles - Editor's Draft 2 November 2007