FirstGov revs search engine

The search engine bought from a Norwegian company to find information on the federal government's Web portal, FirstGov, is finally ready for service. It will be formally unveiled June 3 by Stephen Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration.

The engine, built by Fast Search & Transfer of Oslo, Norway, is expected to yield more relevant and more complete search results from more than 51 million federal and state pages now on the Internet.

Originally scheduled to begin operating March 31, the Fast search engine was delayed for two months because GSA decided to buy and install new switching servers for the search engine, according to a senior official at GSA, which operates FirstGov.

The new engine is supposed to be able to search through government Web pages in a wide variety of formats, including PDF, HTML, Extensible Markup Language and plain text, as well as Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint, Excel and Word.

In addition, the Fast engine will be capable of searching through government databases, according to Deborah Diaz, GSA's associate administrator for FirstGov. "So there's a plethora of information and services available throughout government that will now be available to citizens," Diaz said in an April interview.

The Fast engine is being supplied by AT&T Business Services, which will be paid $2 million a year for up to five years.

Spokesmen at AT&T and Fast Search & Transfer say they are prohibited from discussing the terms of their contract with GSA.

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