Visit the MSDN Magazine Web site and you’ll see we’ve been a bit busier than usual of late. In addition to the regularly scheduled November issue, featuring guidance on ASP.NET Web API, MVVM development, and Office 365 and Visual Studio 2013, this month we published an extra issue of MSDN Magazine focused specifically on government application development. The MSDN Magazine Digital Government Issue shines a light on a dynamic and fast-growing sector of application development, and offers useful case-in-point solutions to real world development challenges.

In the wake of a near-disastrous government shutdown and the actually-disastrous HealthCare.gov Web site roll out, it would seem November might be an inopportune time to shine a light on government-focused app dev. In fact, the opposite is true. The recent challenges show just how vital mature and advanced app dev is to government operation, whether it’s preserving continuity of service during a shutdown or enabling the successful rollout of a massive and complex Web-based enrollment program.

The focus of this special issue isn’t on big ticket internal government development, but rather on enabling citizen-facing services. The articles explore the opportunities independent developers and contractors have to create value by tapping into a growing array of government services, resources and data stores. The issue also looks at ways that government entities—particularly at the local level—can benefit from savvy software development.

Tim Kulp’s “Engage Governments and Communities with Open311,” for example, shows how a Javascript-based Windows Store application lets citizens to interact with local government, reporting issues like a misbehaving stoplight or dangerous pothole from a phone or Web browser. Or check out Joel Reyes’ feature describing how a municipal transit authority can use Near Field Communications and Windows Phone Wallet to enable purchases and loyalty program services.

There’s a lot more where that came from, both in the Government Special Issue and in future issues of MSDN Magazine. In December, Vishwas Lele pens a feature titled “Freedom of Information Act Data at Your Fingertips,” which explores how to build a JavaScript-based Windows Store app to enable, streamline and manage Freedom of Information Act requests. And in January we plan to publish a second feature from Tim Kulp that reveals how a Windows Store app can unlock historical archives from the U.S. Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project.

Greg Bateman is the senior director for Acquisition Programs, Policy and Strategy at Microsoft Federal, and was a key player in pulling together resources for the Government Special Issue. His column in the issue does a nice job of laying out the market dynamics that are making government-focused app dev so compelling right now.

Bateman notes that the technology industry has a long history of spinning out value from government-run and owned services, including that little DARPA project that gave us all the Internet. Now the federal government is working to actively foment application development, urging agencies to, as Bateman writes, “make more of their data accessible to both the public and application developers.” The aim: To generate a wave of citizen facing apps and services that change the way people interact with government. Check out Bateman’s column. It’s worth a read.

Are you engaged in government-focused development? And what challenges and are opportunities do you see in this arena going forward?