I understand that one of the big reasons Grants.gov went with its current solution was so that people could fill out forms offline. However, I wonder which stakeholder is more affected – the person who cannot have constant Internet access or the person who has a Mac (or another alternative OS) and has to jump through additional hoops in order to submit his or her application? I am amazed that any research institution would not have constant Internet connectivity. Do we know what percentage of applicants might fall into this category? Dave indicates that as many as 33% of the Grants.gov audience uses a computing platform other than Windows OS. I just cannot imagine that 33% of applicants in the grantee community would not have access to the Internet. As I’ve remarked tongue-in-cheek in the past,
“There are federal mandates such as Section 508 that provide for equal access to web applications for handicapped individuals. Shouldn’t there be an equal access technology policy too?”
My point being that official G2C business systems should allow for multi-platform accessibility. Granted, I’ve spoken about the alternative of using Citrix, but this is not a particularly intuitive solution for many people. At least there are some offers of help.
Frankly, I do not think that it would be such a stretch to create a product that is available on multiple platforms. Sure, perhaps they cannot have something available “for every platform imaginable,” but this is not forging new ground. For instance, a tool like JEdit is Java-based and can therefore be run on multiple platforms. It is a text editor that handles a variety of plugins, including fairly robust XML editing. Now, although I do not know all the technology requirements for a tool to be able to transmit the data to grants.gov, it seems to me that something similar can be created that meets the requirements for offline application creation.
If Grants.gov is unwilling to “host” grantees’ data centrally, then it seems that this saved money could easily be used to resolve this issue. It’s just a shame that they did not think to include the multiple platform requirement when they initially contracted with PureEdge. I guess the saying goes “better late than never,” but it sounds as though there are some angry people – I’ve been monitoring this dissatisfaction for almost 2-3 years now.