FirstGov wins $100,000 innovations award

FirstGov wins $100,000 innovations award

It’s been a busy week for the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communication, which oversees the FirstGov Web portal. After relaunching the site earlier this week, GSA today won a $100,000 grant from the Institute for Government Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

FirstGov was one of five grand prize winners at the 16th annual competition for innovative public-sector projects. It was chosen from 15 finalists, each of which received at least $10,000. FirstGov had been a runner-up last year.

“We felt really good about our chances because we had a better understanding of what the judges were looking for,” said Mary Joy Jameson, GSA’s associate administrator for the office. “We felt we had the data to support the fact that FirstGov has truly taken off. We believe it has embedded itself within government as the vehicle to reach citizens, and that was not easy to do.”

Jameson said GSA has made no decisions about what to do with the grant. It came days after a face-lift, which rearranged portal information for four audiences that the Office of Management and Budget has targeted in its 25 Quicksilver E-Government projects: citizens, businesses and nonprofit groups, federal employees and other governments. A pull-down menu on the top online pages lists each area.

“The e-government initiatives are aligned with what the public wants, and that is why we are aligned with them,” Jameson said. “We fine-tuned the site to make information easier to find and more logical.”

GSA also improved the way it answers e-mail and phone calls. Jameson said GSA hired Aspen Systems Corp. of Rockville, Md., in May to maintain a call and e-mail center for the agency. She said her office’s next steps will be to launch a content management system later this summer and to add transactional capabilities as they come available.

“You have to have two things for a useful Web site: the technology and the ability to stay close to the customer,” she said. “If you don’t know what the customer wants, then the technology doesn’t matter.”

The other $100,000 grand prize winners were:

  • Chicago’s 311 System for handling telephone requests from citizens for city services and information about city events

  • New York’s La Bodega de la Familia, a facility that provides services for families of drug offenders, including outpatient drug treatment

  • Ohio’s Center for Higher Education, which gives grants to school districts and college campuses to increase the number of high school students attending college

  • Vermont’s Energy Efficiency Utility, an independent state agency that analyzes how business and citizens use energy and then recommends improvements.

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