FirstGov gets juiced up
- By William Matthews
- Sep 25, 2000
A day ahead of the three-month schedule President Clinton set for launching
a governmentwide Internet portal, FirstGov flickered to life Sept. 22 on
computer screens nationwide.
The portal, which bills itself as "Your first click to the U.S. government,"
provides easy access to government information and transactions online.
Through FirstGov (firstgov.gov), it is possible to apply for a job online,
buy stamps from the Postal Service or shop from the Smithsonian Institution's
online catalog. The portal provides links to topics ranging from agriculture
and food to arts and culture. However, the central feature is a search engine
with instantaneous access to 27 million federal Web pages.
President Clinton declared the portal "a breakthrough in one-stop shopping
for government services."
"This isn't about the search engine, it's about having a government
that understands electronic government," said Eric Brewer, co-founder of
Inktomi Corp., which developed the search engine for the portal.
The portal is an essential steppingstone to e-government, said Brewer,
speaking at the Sept. 22 news conference where the portal was unveiled.
"It's a prerequisite for the kind of personalized services people want from
The idea behind the portal is to make it easy to search for government
information and services by topic rather than by agency. Because FirstGov
has access to all government Web pages, it is no longer necessary to know
which agency holds what information or offers which services. If it is on
the Internet, FirstGov will retrieve it regardless of where it is stored.
Federal information technology officials hope that the portal's ability
to easily cross agency boundaries to locate information and services will
be a first step toward building an electronic government that is user-friendly
for citizens rather than agency-oriented.