Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'

  • The EU parliament's Citizens' App has been downloaded 80,000 times - but how often is it used then? (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament does not collect any statistics on how often its new Citizens' App is used, an access to documents request by EUobserver has revealed.

The mobile application aims to increase the level of knowledge of EU citizens of what European integration means, amidst continued lacklustre public interest in the EU institutions.

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  • The mobile application offers information about EU legislation (Photo: Screenshot from the Citizens’ App)

It has been available since 11 January this year "to help citizens to discover what the EU has done, is doing and plans to do".

The app has been downloaded almost 80,000 times since then, a spokeswoman for the European Parliament told EUobserver.

"With one eye on the upcoming European elections, the Citizens' App enables everyone, everywhere to check the EU's achievements, ongoing work, and future goals as well as explaining what the European parliament's does," the parliament said in a press statement at the time.

According to internal documents made public at this website's request, the European parliament (EP) argued the app would have "a strong multiplier dimension" and would "widen the use and strengthen the impact of EP publications".

But it now appears that the parliament has no way of knowing how often users have actually opened the app after downloading it.

"Concerning your request on the statistics of use of the Citizens' App mobile application, parliament informs you that there is no such marker in the application and therefore they do not exist," wrote parliament secretary-general Klaus Welle in a letter to EUobserver.

Welle also wrote that there were no documents about what the app's development costed, because its development was part of a larger framework contract. The parliament spokeswoman also said she could not offer a figure.

It is not clear from the documents whether the developer of the app offered to include the option to track the app's usage frequency.

The developer, Luxembourg-based Agile Partners, was subcontracted by Atos & Deloitte.

The latter did not reply to a request for comment, while Agile Partners' director said EUobserver would be called back by the developing team - which has yet to happen.

"No statistical tools are used for processing personal or traffic data," the EU parliament spokeswoman said by email when asked to comment.

"It was estimated that a follow-up of the number of downloads from the stores would provide an indication," she added.

The EU parliament spokeswoman did say that the app had been downloaded 41,870 times from the Google Play store and 37,418 times from the Apple Store.

Around 72 percent of European smartphone users uses the Android mobile operating system, and use the Google Play store to get their apps.

It is however not uncommon for smartphone users to download an app and then let it wither away unused.

How does that compare?

It is difficult to say whether 80,000 downloads in four months is a lot or not for an app about EU politics, because it depends what you compare it with.

The app has for example been downloaded more often than some other political apps, like one developed by the UK parliament which allows users to track votes in the House of Commons, or the Council of the EU app that can help calculate which member states are needed to reach a qualified majority.

But 80,000 downloads pale in comparison to major apps like Netflix, which has been downloaded more than 500m times from the Google Play store alone.

User reviews

Reviews for the EU app in the Google Play store ranged from one to five stars.

Some of the more negative reviews also included a jibe at the EU itself.

"Good idea, weak execution, buggy, bad design, probably overpriced for what it does... Almost sounds like the EU itself, maybe that was the purpose of creating this app," one two-star review said.

"Great idea, absolutely horrible execution," another reviewer said.

"With the money the EU spends, you would think they could hire a better team to write official apps," he added.

Others were more enthusiastic.

"This app needs to be advertised across the EU. Citizens need to know in an easy way what European Union does for them," said a user who gave a five-star rating.

In the Apple store the app was rated five stars out of five - but only by two users.

Throughout its history, the European Union has suffered from a lack of interest by its citizens.

Since Europeans gained the right to elect the European Parliament in 1979, voter turnout has decreased every time.

The previous elections saw a voter turnout average across the bloc of only 43 percent.

One key question that will affect the perception of the EU's legitimacy will be whether turnout will be higher this time, as EU citizens vote new MEPs until Sunday (26 May).

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

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