The new World Wide Web site organizes government information based on the services provided
A new World Wide Web site launched by American Online aims to make agency
information easier for people to find.
The Internet service provider had a soft launch in December for www.governmentguide.com,
which organized agency Web sites based on the services they provide. For
example, looking for benefits information would be connected to the Department
of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Labor Pension and Benefits Agency,
the Social Security Agency and Internal Revenue Service sites.
"We have taken and organized government Web sites in a way that makes sense
and helps people find things from all agency Web sites," James Vaughn, programming
manager at AOL, said during a demonstration for agency representatives Wednesday.
"People might not be aware what agency would be responsible for handling
their specific needs."
AOL is working to link users to state and local agencies based on a person's
zip code. When a person types in their zip code, only government Web sites
within a certain radius will be listed. National and federal organizations
will also be included in the local lists, Vaughn said.
The AOL site provides a window to agency Web sites, so AOL personnel cannot
record confidential information, Vaughn said. The Internet provider also
does not keep demographics on the users accessing the agency sites and does
not charge a fee for using the site.
Governmentguide.com, which is not restricted to AOL and Netscape members,
also allows people to file complaint forms with agency offices. By answering
a few questions and filling in a few blanks, AOL software will create the
appropriate form and provide directions on how to submit the complaint to
People can also rate government Web sites on their ease of use, and the
results will be posted on the AOL site. The agency with the highest rating
to date is the Internal Revenue Service. People said it had a simple, easy-to-use
design, Vaughn said.
"It is an opportunity for [agencies] to get some constructive criticism
and perhaps make changes to [their] Web sites to make them more user friendly,"