Looking to localize FirstGov info

When the governmentwide Internet portal FirstGov was launched, it was billed as a first step in transforming the relationship between the public and the federal government. Now, an interagency group is looking for ways to take a second step.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee issued a request for information this week seeking ideas on how to localize FirstGov information.

"FirstGov is evolving into a site that citizens can easily use to rapidly find, get and use government information and services tailored to their needs," FGDC officials wrote in their request. "But at this early stage in its development, FirstGov cannot yet offer...information and services by location, a capability that will truly improve government accountability for Americans."

FirstGov, which debuted in September, provides links to listed topics and a search engine that can comb through tens of millions of federal Web pages.

To search for local FirstGov information, visitors might need to type in their states and counties, said Douglas Nebert, geospacial data clearinghouse coordinator for the FGDC's secretariat staff. This would help users narrow their search to find the appropriate address for filing their tax returns, for example, or to learn about Agriculture Department grants available in their areas, he said.

"We're looking for innovative ideas" from the vendor community, Nebert said. "We're trying to look for what people think are cutting-edge ideas."

FirstGov is federally oriented, but Nebert said state and local government resources eventually might be offered as part of a "virtual town square" vision proposed by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

The FGDC, composed of representatives from 17 federal agencies, works to promote the use of geospacial data.

Initial responses to the RFI are due by Nov. 22, and a second submission period will be open until Jan. 21, 2001.


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