Clinton calls for quick work on government portal

Clinton calls for quick work on government portal

Eric Brewer

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

JUNE 26'President Clinton this weekend announced the creation of a government Web portal that will serve as a central home page for all federal agencies.

Known as FirstGov, the site will be similar to the popular Yahoo.com portal and will provide links to services by both their commonly known names and by agency, administration officials said.

The portal, which Clinton said would be online within 90 days, is a follow-up to an effort begun nearly a year ago by the General Services Administration and known as WebGov [see story at www.gcn.com/vol19_no8/news/1705-1.html.]

Clinton announced the portal plan on Saturday in his first-ever webcast, which took place during his regularly scheduled weekly radio address.

"When it's complete, FirstGov will serve as a single point of entry to one of the largest, perhaps the most useful collection of Web pages in the entire world," Clinton said. "Whether you want crucial information in starting a small business or you want to track your Social Security benefits, you can do it all in one place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Providing information through the site, at www.firstgov.gov, is only the first step, Clinton said. Eventually, agencies will also use FirstGov for transactions with taxpayers, he said.

The portal is one part of a broader electronic-government push by the administration. The White House also wants to expand use of GSA's Electronic Posting System beyond the handful of agencies currently using it. And, there will be an effort to streamline the processes used to manage the $300 billion worth of grants the government awards each year, said Sally Katzen, counselor to the director of the Office of Management and Budget. An interagency group already has begun work on a central online grant system.

Internet entrepreneur Eric Brewer, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in search engines, has created a grant fund for the initial work on FirstGov. The site will use Brewer's technology for full-text searches of most government Web pages, GSA Administrator David J. Barram said.

A nonprofit organization specifically created for the FirstGov project will develop and manage the site initially. After two years, the government has first right of refusal to purchase the site.

Barram said that the administration chose the www.firstgov.gov address because it was available for the .com, .gov, .net and .org domains.

The webcast and the text of Clinton's address are posted online at www.whitehouse.gov/WH/New/html/internet2000-06-24.html.

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