Firstgov.gov goes online

Firstgov.gov goes online

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

SEPT. 25—The General Services Administration's technical staff worked on Internet time—24 hours, seven days a week—to bring the Web portal to life, said Sally Katzen, deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget. She said the site will not track where users go and will not plant cookies on their systems.

Eric Brewer, who with the Federal Search Foundation created the monster search engine that drives Firstgov.gov, said the portal can access more than 27 million government Web pages. It means, he said, that government understands the Internet.

'It is possible to make a difference in 90 days,' he said, expressing hope that the site will foster greater trust in government. Brewer predicted that the massive portal would be merely the first step toward a vast array of online services. 'There is no belief on anyone's part that we are done or that this is a complete project,' he said during a press conference heralding the advent of the highly publicized site.

Getting the government to care about how it appears online is just as important as the unveiling, he said.

'There are a lot of user interface issues,' Brewer said. 'Many agencies are not where they want to be, but that's OK, taking steps.'

GSA administrator David J. Barram said the site design has proved popular.
'Whenever someone sees this page, they say, 'Ooh, I like it,' ' he said.

The technology already existed for the massive database that pulls up the full text of pages. It is used by technology giants Microsoft Corp. and America Online Inc., Brewer said.

The site, which the Federal Search Foundation charged GSA $1 to develop, will be run by the foundation for two years. At the end of that time, the government will have an opportunity to take it over or contract for its management.

Brewer said he did not know the value of the work he donated to the government. In a work-for-pay situation, he said, the price would be based on site usage, which has yet to be determined.

The government is seeking partners for the site. It has a link with contact information for interested parties.

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