AOL revamps gov guide

AOL Time Warner Inc. has launched Version 2.0 of its government access Web site, with links to more than 60,000 federal, state and local sites and a feature to let users personalize information.

AOL said its latest version of GovernmentGuide (www.governmentguide.com), unveiled March 6, is easier to use and offers more consumer-friendly features. Last summer, it partnered with e-government company NIC to provide state and local content to the site.

The guide contains an expanded "citizen toolbox" with information on topics ranging from filing taxes to renewing a driver's license, said Kathleen deLaski, AOL's director of political and government programming who conceived the free site.

The guide is organized around tasks, such as autos and licenses, consumer and tax information, education, small business, health and community.

Users can personalize the site by entering their ZIP code. For the top 15 most-populated cities, from New York City to Long Beach, Calif., residents can get extensive links to government services.

But for smaller cities, deLaski said the guide falls short. "We don't have a rich array of links," she said, adding that AOL plans to address that shortcoming over the next year.

Since the site launched in December 1999, traffic has grown by at least 30 percent each month, and in January there were 1.5 million unique visitors, she said.

"We originally launched the site to see if consumers would respond to the packaging of government by consumer tasks rather than agencies," deLaski said. "It was an experiment, and everyone was blown away by how successful it was right out of the box."

Although government sites are becoming more customer-centric, deLaski said many people still don't know their government's Web addresses or how to find relevant information and services.

The most popular topics and services on GovernmentGuide are tax filing, passports, health information and tracking lost assets, she said.

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