FirstGov to add state links

FirstGov, the Internet portal that provides access to all federal government Web pages, plans to add links to most state Web pages beginning this week.

To accommodate the addition, FirstGov will change in appearance somewhat and add a state field to its search engine, said Beverly Godwin, FirstGov's content director.

Including state Web pages will increase FirstGov's Web page index from 31 million federal pages to more than 50 million federal and state pages, Godwin said in an address May 18 to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Adding the ability to locate state information and services through FirstGov represents a major step toward the goal of creating a central government Internet address.

"This is important because it shows that FirstGov recognizes that most government services are done at the state and local level," said Ari Schwartz, an analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Providing links to state Web sites will make it easier to locate information and services without having to know which level of government provides them, he said.

FirstGov will also begin emphasizing the importance of Web sites that enable people to perform transactions with government via the Internet, Godwin said. The portal plans to highlight Web sites where people can fill out government forms, make payments and conduct other business, she said.

The changes could help 8-month-old FirstGov develop "a brand identity for government online that is absolutely crucial" for e-government to succeed, said Steven Clift, an e-government advocate and Web designer based in Minnesota. "It would be nice," he said, if FirstGov evolves into a recognized and trusted starting place for accessing government information and services.

But adding 20 million state pages to FirstGov will also be a challenge for the portal's search capability, Clift said. Ideally, FirstGov's keyword search capability would be augmented by navigation tools that include directories that have been edited by people, he said.

In one effort to make information easier to find, FirstGov is promoting the development of cross-agency portals and awarding them the FirstGov "brand." Thus, "Seniors.gov" has become "FirstGov for Seniors," offering services and information tailored to the needs of senior citizens (see related story, Page 52). nRelated links:

FirstGov likely to go interactive /fcw/articles/2001/0312/web-portal-03-15-01.asp

FirstGov ready for next page /fcw/articles/2001/0312/web-first-03-16-01.asp

Looking to localize FirstGov info /fcw/articles/2000/1113/web-geo-11-15-00.asp

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