10 Web sites take top honors for superlative NII offerings

Ten World Wide Web sites, including one government site, were chosen last month as winners of the 1996 National Information Infrastructure Awards. The 2-year-old public/private program, supported by major technology and media corporations, the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Computer Week, honors the most creative and beneficial use of communications technology.

While only one winner was a government site, several government agencies were chosen as finalists and are well worth the time of cybersurfers.

It was no surprise that a Web site created by the National Science Foundation, a pioneer in the development of the Internet, was chosen as one of the winners from a field of 1,000 nominees. NSF's Fastlane Project Web site (www.fastlane.nsf.gov) experiments with how the Web can expedite the foundation's business transactions and information exchange with scientists and research institutions whose work is funded by NSF.

While this site is very text-intensive and primarily geared toward the research and development community, it provides a wealth of information about highly sought-after NSF funding. Sixteen colleges and universities are assisting NSF with the development of Fastlane, which allows users to query the NSF database by state, institution, NSF program and fiscal year in each grant category. The site also allows graduate students to electronically apply for NSF graduate research fellowships.

For information more suitable for a general audience, point your browser to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site (www.fema.gov), which was chosen as one of 60 finalists in the NII awards program. From the moment you access the "Emergency Lane of the Information Superhighway," you get real-time information in the form of a horizontal news ticker that provides information on the nation's latest severe weather or natural disaster. Peppered with dazzling photos of various weather conditions, the site offers an array of practical weather information that is up to the minute.

In the third week of December, for example, the site's winter storm update center posted frequent updates of a storm that had battered the Midwest and was making its way up the Eastern seaboard. National flood summaries and active warnings for floods, hurricanes and storms also are posted by state.

Another government NII finalist is the Library of Congress' Historical Collections site. Point your browser to lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ to peruse these historical collections, which are the library's key contributions to the National Digital Library project. Titled "American Memory," this brilliantly organized site allows users to step back in time through a variety of media, including photos, documents, motion pictures and sound recordings.

Click on the Abraham Lincoln icon, for example, and journey back to the turn of the century with a collection of photographs from Detroit Publishing Co., which includes 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies as well as 300 color prints depicting American culture between 1890 and 1920.

Other federal sites that were chosen as finalists in the NII awards program include the Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Postal Service site (www.1800cleanup.org/), NASA's K-12 Internet initiative (quest.arc.nasa.gov/) and the agency's Live From the Hubble Space Telescope site (quest.arc.nasa.gov/interactive/hst.html/), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (stats.bls.gov), the Census Bureau (sedac.ciesin.org/demog/) and the Government Information Locator Service (www.usgs.gov/gils/).

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