FirstGov.gov to expand capabilities with new contract

The General Services Administration expects an expanded search function on Firstgov.gov to improve access to and the efficiency of the portal. A broadened search tool should let users search for government services across all levels, including state and local resources, GSA said today.

In a $1.8 million annual contract with Vivisimo Inc. of Pittsburgh and a partnership with Microsoft Corp., GSA said the enhanced Firstgov.gov portal will “provide citizens with unprecedented access to government information from a single source.”

The search function will rely on software developer Vivisimo’s Clusty.com search engine and incorporate results and features from Microsoft’s MSN search engine, GSA said. As an example, GSA said that if a user searched for “nursing jobs,” the results will come from both the FirstGov.gov site and the government’s job database at USAJOBS.gov.

The function will go live next spring, followed by a video and news search addition in the fall, GSA officials said.

The new search tool also will expand the reach of the FirstGov portal, GSA said. Currently, the search tool includes an index of nearly 8 million federal Web sites, but the enhanced function will let users search an index that will be three times larger and include state, local, tribal and territorial Web sites.

“The enhancements we’re unveiling today improve Firstgov.gov’s ability to guide citizens through the sometimes-confusing federal bureaucracy and translate to simply yet advanced searches of government information and images,” said M.J. Pizzella, associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

GSA signed the contract as part of an $18 million blanket-purchase agreement (BPA) for Web search services.

Three companies, including Vivisimo, were selected to participate in the BPA after the agency issued a request for quotes in the spring, Pizzella said. The other companies are Gigablast Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M., and Fast Search and Transfer, a Norweigen-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Needham, Mass.

The way the BPA is structured lets each company to bid to provide the search services each year, meaning that while Vivisimo won the first leg of the deal, the companies can revamp their products and make another run next year, Pizzella said.

FirstGov.gov is the government’s portal for information and services.

Posted at 11:02 a.m. and updated at 3:18 p.m., Sept. 23

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