FirstGov 'not worthy of being called a portal'

OMB Watch letter

A public policy group says the FirstGov World Wide Web site, which is intended to provide a single view of federal government services and information, does not live up to President Clinton's vision of electronic access to government.

In a letter sent Monday to Sally Katzen, acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and member of the FirstGov board of directors, OMB Watch executive director Gary Bass said the group is "greatly disappointed" about the first mock-up of the portal (www.firstgov.gov). It's especially disappointing because the group had high hopes after Clinton issued a memorandum on e-government last December, he said.

"We recognize that the creation of FirstGov, especially with the speed with which it is being developed, will be a work requiring continual progress, that the first version will not be the last, and that the site will always be in search of perfection," Bass wrote. "Nonetheless...other than the...search engine, the site falls far short of the objectives identified in the [president's] December memo and is not worthy of being called a portal."

The group expressed concern that under the current mock-up of FirstGov, the portal would simply be a way to "click through" to federal Web sites, something that would not enhance the government's value for the public.

OMB Watch also calls for the FirstGov board to solicit more public comment on how the portal should be designed and what information it should present.

"Staff should be exploring ways of aggregating information, based on surveys and focus groups, to make the site meaningful to users," Bass wrote.

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