FirstGov tweaks site for non-English speakers

The government’s official search portal, FirstGov.gov, will add new features in the next few months in hopes of appealing to an increasingly worldwide audience.

Yesterday, FirstGov Director Bev Godwin said the Web site will soon provide a version tailored to international visitors and RSS feeds in Spanish.

FirstGov officials realize that foreigners are accessing the online resources the U.S. government provides but are not always able to take advantage of those materials.

“Once you put anything on the Internet, it becomes global,” Godwin said, adding that the goal is to make government information valuable to all growing segments of the Web portal’s user base.

Currently, FirstGov is partitioned into pages designed for citizens, businesses and nonprofits, federal employees, or government-to-government. Next month, the portal will add a page that organizes government information specifically for visitors to the United States, Godwin said.

FirstGov will also allow users to toggle between Spanish and English while searching. Godwin said the function is targeted at bilingual employers, children who want to help parents who do not speak English and anyone who needs a quick translation.

Early next year, the government will reach out to another part of the population: teenagers.

FirstGov will add online chat to the list of customer service options. The idea is to assist high school and college students who are accustomed to communicating through instant messaging, Godwin said.

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