Stimulus law Web site in flux

Report says the online IT dialogue was better than an RFI in some respects

A week of online discussions about improving the Recovery.gov Web site functioned like a traditional request for information and in some ways was better than an RFI, according to the National Academy of Public Administration.

In an after-action report, NAPA officials concluded that the online Recovery Dialogue for Information Technology Solutions, held from April 27 to May 3, allowed the "surveying of more potential solutions more quickly than is possible with a traditional RFI process" and resulted in "a more critical, informed assessment."

The dialogue's purpose was to find ideas for improving Recovery.gov, which is the Web site for reporting on federal spending under the $787 billion economic stimulus law. More than 22,000 people participated.

“The dialogue functioned analogously to an RFI process, allowing for the collection of information about, and comparison between, the capabilities offered by different solutions,” NAPA officials wrote in the report. The organization was a co-sponsor of the dialogue, along with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

Despite NAPA’s conclusions, a public dialogue with more than 22,000 participants — many of whom are not vendors with detailed knowledge of the topic — might not always be preferable to an RFI, said Kenneth Weckstein, a government contracts attorney at Brown Rudnick.

"An online dialogue is different, not better, than an RFI," Weckstein said. Although it might be a more democratic process, an online dialogue accomplishes different things, he added.

Meanwhile, the oversight board is seeking to hire a vendor through the General Services Administration’s Alliant contract to design, launch and host a new iteration of Recovery.gov.

In a presolicitation notice posted June 11 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, the board said it is seeking “an innovative, award-winning, Web design and implementation firm with expertise in user-focused, data-driven Web designs to perform complete redesign, implementation and operation of the Recovery.gov Version 2.0 Web site.”

Services include visual design, user interface design, information architecture, design engineering, project management, interactive data visualization and Web application-level functionality.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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