FirstGov among award finalists

The government Web portal FirstGov, a child welfare program and a veteran's medical safety initiative are three federal technology projects selected as finalists for the Innovations in American Government Awards.

The awards presented annually by the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government recognize programs that demonstrate excellence and creativity in government. A dozen state and local government projects also were selected as finalists.

The FirstGov portal was cited because it creates a single entry point for gaining access to multiple government Web sites that provide information and services.

The portal provides instant access to 47 million federal and state Web pages that permit functions as varied as applying for student loans, searching for jobs, renewing driver's licenses and filing taxes.

According to award officials, the portal is changing the way government leaders think about online services.

Another finalist is the Child Welfare Outcomes Initiative run by the Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau. The HHS initiative is credited with helping increase adoptions by 64 percent since 1996 and working with federal officials to uncover strengths and shortcomings of child welfare programs.

The third federal finalist was the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for Patient Safety. The 4-year-old center encourages health care workers to report errors and close calls so that medical centers can study them and learn from the mistakes.

Programs selected as finalists are awarded $20,000 each. Five winning programs will be selected Oct. 17 and will receive $100,000 each.

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