The Circuit

Unloved?

When the "love bug" computer virus swept through Washington, D.C., on May 4, the House and Senate were bitten, along with the Defense Department and agencies from the departments of Education and Energy to the Health Care Financing Administration. But the White House seemed oddly immune. White House officials admitted to "a few isolated cases" of computer infection but said they were promptly "dealt with." Can the Clinton administration be so unloved? Or has there been so much to say about the missing White House e-mail messages that the love bug decided to give the White House a break?

Safe but not so Happy

You have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, declares the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's World Wide Web site. If you believe your working conditions, including ergonomics, are unsafe, you have the right to bring the issue to your employer's attention. You can file a complaint online if nothing gets fixed. But even though federal agencies are required to provide a safe workplace, they cannot be sued for violating health and safety standards. (The only exception is the U.S. Postal Service, which is treated like a private employer.) So a word to the wise: Be careful. If you run into trouble, you're on your own.

Talking to Your Teen

The White House this month announced a new way to help parents communicate with their teenagers in a language they can understand — the Internet. At a conference on the teen years, President Clinton announced a Web resource for teens — www.americasteens.gov — a site that includes a picture of a psychedelic school bus and offers help on homework, hobbies and careers. The site provides a gateway to other publicly supported Web sites for teens. It was developed by 17 agencies, Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government and the General Services Administration.

You Can Run but You Can't Hide

The federal government is developing its own white pages for anyone who wants to find a federal employee's phone number, title and e-mail address in an easy-to-use online database. The project began with the largest agencies and is moving to the smaller ones. So don't expect to duck that angry consumer as government goes to a more customer-friendly system — one that actually helps the customer put a name to an issue and find you with a click of a mouse.

Dot-Com Riders

The world of the dot-coms is slowly invading the federal marketplace, but before agencies can jump on the Internet bandwagon, they must remember their customers. The problem with most commercial vendors is that they "take the stovepipe approach and make everything electronic and forget about the fact that there is technology out there that will scare my mother," said Paul Doty, vice president of sales at GovConnect.com, a private portal. "There are three types of people the government must serve," said Gene DeLucia, president of GovConnect.com in an interview. "There are the "walkers' who want to be able to talk to someone in person. There are the "bikers' who like to use the touch-tone phone. Then there are the "people who fly the jets' who prefer to use the Internet. The government does not have the privilege of serving just one [type]. They must meet the needs of all of them.

Have a tip? Send it to circuit@fcw.com.

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