FirstGov adds access to 50 states, D.C.

FirstGov adds access to 50 states, D.C.

BY PREETI VASISHTHA | GCN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS'The General Services Administration last week relaunched its FirstGov portal with the added capability for searching and linking to 16 million pages from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

'Government now is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,' new GSA Administrator Stephen Perry said.

He announced the portal's expansion at the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils' Management of Change conference.

'Citizens should not have to know what agency or what level of government provides an information or service in order for them to find it,' Perry said. 'We're creating a pervasive electronic-government presence.'

Deborah Diaz, deputy associate administrator for FirstGov in GSA's Governmentwide Policy Office, said the portal has received many enhancements in addition to state Web page access, notably improved speed.

Deborah Diaz
Staff asked each state's webmaster for permission to let FirstGov spiders scour their sites, GSA's Deborah Diaz says.
Perry said the retooled search engine from Inktomi Corp. of Foster City, Calif., can search the site's entire 46- million-page database in a quarter of a second.

'This is the most efficient search engine of its type anywhere in the world,' he said.

Previously, firstgov.gov could perform full-text word searches of 31 million federal Web pages.

Diaz said FirstGov officials worked with members of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, other state officials and librarians to establish the links to FirstGov. She said that even though many state sites freely permit linking, FirstGov staff members contacted each state webmaster for permission to let FirstGov spiders scour their sites.

FirstGov indexes the state sites daily and caches the information on its servers but does not replicate the states' sites. Texas CIO Carolyn Purcell called this approach brilliant because 'it doesn't develop redundant sites. You go to the source; there's not the expense of a second infrastructure.'

FirstGov's new state and local section offers services such as online filing of driver's licenses, birth certificates, passports and state taxes. State officials had raised concerns that the site would divert traffic from their portals. But clicks on a FirstGov state link take users directly to the state's site.

Where's the beef? Here

G. Martin Wagner, GSA's associate administrator for governmentwide policy, said the agency spent roughly $300,000 to beef up FirstGov's storage and communications capabilities so it could take on the state data. FirstGov is hosted by AT&T Corp. and GRC International Inc. of Vienna, Va.

Wagner and Perry said they want to expand FirstGov further to local government sites but gave no timetable.

Although it has only $100,000 to spend, GSA will conduct a marketing campaign to drive Web traffic to FirstGov, concentrating on librarians and teachers via print and online media.

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