Portal will help e-gov click
- By Bill Piatt
- Jul 03, 2000
FirstGov home page
President Clinton's first-ever Web-cast on June 24 marked the dawn of a
new era in electronic government. The initiatives he presented will set
in motion a series of events that will transform the way government delivers
services to its constituents.
The first and perhaps most powerful idea is the FirstGov.gov Web portal a one-stop, comprehensive index for locating and retrieving the information
within 100 million pages of information published by the federal government
on the Internet.
FirstGov is a gift from Eric Brewer, one of the founders of Inktomi
Corp. Inktomi is the "index" inside the most popular information portals
on the Internet. It processes more than 70 million queries a day against
its 500 million pages of information, each in less than a quarter of a second.
The technology even allows the searching of pages that lack metatags or
data descriptors a prevalent problem among federal Web pages. The General
Services Administration hopes FirstGov will become the index inside all
information portals that wish to search for government information.
The fundamental concept behind FirstGov is that the first use of government
information should be free to all Americans. That means people should be
able to access all government- published information in a manner that maintains
the integrity of the information, protects citizens' privacy as they search
and provides the service at no cost including no use of intrusive banner
That concept will be encouraged through a FirstGov "brand." Within days,
the Commerce Business Daily will publish the conditions of the brand and
solicit feedback from potential industry partners. All companies that comply
with the brand requirements will be allowed to display the brand on their
Web sites. The objective is to leverage the innovation of the private sector
to make citizens' information searches quick and hassle-free.
In the longer term, making all of the government's published information
available likely will result in pressure to align agencies' regulatory and
enforcement roles. Citizens presented with conflicting information from
agencies will demand that we rationalize and streamline our bureaucracy.
We should earnestly begin developing virtual organizations that operate
horizontally across the federal government, as Access America
has done. That is the Internet Age organizational model, and we should begin
broadly implementing it now.
At the very least, FirstGov should result in more traffic and greater
scrutiny of information published on federal Web sites. What every department,
bureau and agency should do now is clean up all existing Web sites. Ensure
that every link is good, that every page has an owner and that all pages
present a consistent, professional appearance. Take advantage of the Section
508 accessibility requirements to review all sites and pages.
We may not be able to change the way the government is organized, but
at least we can make sure that it looks as if it is. FirstGov is our first
Piatt is the chief information officer at the General Services Administration.