Feds plan Web

The Clinton administration wants to present a single face to the public on the Web and
has asked a group in the White House to make it happen.


WebGov is still in the concept phase, said Greg Woods, deputy director of the White
House’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government.


Woods and other federal managers want to create a Web site of Web sites—a site
where the public can search, based on subject matter and other key words, the vast pool of
government home pages.


Don Elder, director of NPRG’s Hassle-Free Services Team, said NPRG and the
Government Information Technology Services Board support the creation of “the mother
of all gateways.”


Agency webmasters would have to agree to put the WebGov link on their sites.


WebGov would feature a standardized front end so citizens could easily pinpoint the
agency, department or office home page that contains the information they need, Woods
said.


For instance, a user might begin a search by entering the word “currency” in
the search field. The search engine would then list subcategories under that term. The
user would continue to narrow the search until the site they want, such as a page run by
the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing or the Federal Reserve
Board, appears.


WebGov will offer a “sense of priorities for the public, not an exhaustive
list,” said Richard N. Kellett, director of the General Services
Administration’s Office of Information Technology’s Emerging IT Policies
Division.


Agency webmasters had varying views on the need for the site.


“I think it’s a good idea,” Agriculture Department webmaster Vic Powell
said. “How it can actually be put together, I’m uncertain.”


“It depends on how it’s implemented,” said Carlynn Thompson, director of
research, development and acquisition support for the Defense Technical Information
Center, which produces many of the Defense Department’s Web sites.


Many agencies, she said, already link to the Government Information Locator Service,
which provides the same service, she said.


Started as a way to make global environmental data more accessible, GILS is now a
multinational effort that has, among other things, brought some standardization to federal
data access. The project is a wide-reaching collaboration by government, industry and
academia in the United States and around the world.


WebGov will have to find a place among the other existing Web portholes such as
FedWorld, GILS and the Blue Pages, an online version of the government directory found in
commercial phone books, Elder said.


Kellett argued that the existing search sites are neither specific nor thorough enough.
“There’s a place for the Blue Pages and GILS,” Kellett said, “but
these are so comprehensive, the average citizen gets lost.”


Thompson said, “If we would implement GILS across the board, there might be less
of a need to reinvent the wheel. We know that you have to give people multiple points of
access.”    

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