The Google connection

Mark Forman, former administrator for e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, was not surprised by how many people found online government services through commercial search engines rather than through the FirstGov Web portal.

"We always knew this was going to occur, and we didn't know how," said Forman, who launched the federal e-government initiatives during his three-year tenure at OMB.

Forman said officials designed FirstGov so that three clicks of a mouse would get users where they wanted to go without "searching around 300 different Web sites."

The idea, he said, was to amass services, data or transactions available across agencies into a single Web service.

What the e-government survey shows, he said, is that people will use a commercial search engine such as Google to identify what services are available in government.

"You don't need a portal for government agencies to help find stuff," Forman said. "You need

the portal to streamline the redundancies, to provide the tools that make sense out of all these

redundant, convoluted, hard-to-understand

programs."

Forman said the survey results show that the government must provide services online even though those services may only be used by a small percentage of the population.

"Part of the game is letting people know," he said. "But part of the game is whether government is supplying the services. It's a service-oriented approach to the Internet."

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