Private aid for fed portal

A developer of sophisticated Internet search engines has offered to build

a governmentwide portal free of charge to make it easier for Internet users

to find information posted online by federal agencies.

Eric Brewer, a University of California computer scientist and founder

of the search engine company Inktomi Corp., will have the portal ready to

run in about 90 days, the Clinton administration announced.

The portal will be called "firstgov.gov" and will replace WebGov, a

portal that the General Services Administration has been developing for

two years.

Firstgov will connect to all information federal agencies have put online,

said David Barram, GSA administrator. It will be able to search a half-billion

documents in less than a quarter of a second and will be able to handle

100 million searches each day, he said.

Inktomi's contribution is expected to save the government the projected

$5 million to $20 million cost of developing the government portal.

Brewer's work will be "a gift to the American people," said Sally Katzen,

counselor to the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Brewer

is a strong believer in open access to government information and wants

"to give back" to the nation, Katzen said.

News of firstgov was to be announced by President Clinton June 24 in

a Webcast address to the nation — the president's first Webcast, according

to the White House.

In addition to firstgov, the Clinton administration announced it plans

to make it possible for individuals and small businesses to apply for grants

and bid for government contracts online. Grants and contracts could be worth

hundreds of billions of dollars.

The administration will also offer a $50,000 prize for the most innovative

proposal that advances user-friendly electronic government. The prize will

be administered by the Council for Excellence in Government and funded through

corporate sponsors.

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