NPR fashions info gateway

Within 30 days, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) plans to launch a single massive gateway for the public to search all of the federal government's World Wide Web sites to pinpoint information on government resources and services.

The WebGov project is designed to provide a single source for the public to use when searching the Internet for data from the federal government, said Greg Woods, NPR's deputy director. WebGov will pull together and build on existing Web resources, such as the Blue Pages, an electronic telephone directory for the federal government; the U.S. Business Advisor, a centralized Web page with government information that is geared toward entrepreneurs; and the commonly requested services section of the White House home page. (See Fedwire, FCW, June 15.)

"This WebGov interface would take you to all these sources," Woods said. "What we're trying to do is provide one-place access to government information and services."

The Web site will allow users to search via topic, such as public benefits, business, taxes, travel, employment or health, or will offer the option of searching alphabetically by topic. NPR, working with the General Services Administration, has contracted for software design and database development to create the nationwide WebGov system, or loop, that will link all the government's Web pages, estimated to be from 5,000 to 10,000 pages.

In addition to allowing the public to search for federal information via a single gateway, the site also will allow users to post questions at WebGov that will be rerouted to the most appropriate agency, said Rich Kellett, division director of GSA's Emerging Information Technologies Policies Division. Although agency participation in WebGov will be voluntary, the proj-ect has been designed with built-in incentives to encourage agency interest, he said.

"It gives an entry point for the public that's easy to remember," Kellett said. "Everything points back to the agency. By participating, you actually get more traffic at your Web site. What we're trying to do is get the people to the agency."

One agency Webmaster, who asked not to be identified, said the proj-ect is designed to provide better service to the customer, "which is always a priority."

"The purpose of it is to provide a top-level entry point for the American public," the Webmaster said. "The purpose of it is to help in their search. Yes, anything that serves [to ease] the search for the American public...is a good thing."

Alice Alexander, acting Transportation Department Web manager, said DOT's main Web site often gets e-mail questions from the public that should be directed to another of DOT's 100 Web sites, such as the one operated by the Federal Aviation Administration. She described WebGov as "a great opportunity for the department to have one face to the public [via the Web]." However, Alexander, who works part time and is the only Web manager for DOT, said she has concerns about the manpower and other financial costs to DOT in order to participate in WebGov.

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