FedWeb 2001: Slow progress toward citizen-oriented sites

FedWeb 2001: Slow progress toward citizen-oriented sites

Citizen-centric Web design is coming along slowly at best, some speakers said at yesterday's FedWeb 2001 conference at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Because the federal IT work force is short-handed, many e-mail inquiries from citizens wind up in a virtual black hole, said Margareta Silverstone, an Internet systems analyst in the Administration for Children and Families at the Health and Human Services Department.

'The workload is so extreme that one of the things that gets abandoned is time for communications' with the public, she said.

Basil White, assistant webmaster in the Veterans Affairs Department's Office of Information Resource Management, spoke about communications issues facing webmasters of enterprisewide sites. He said the Internet is making more information accessible to everyone, and citizens don't like it when their inquiries, most of which come by e-mail, are ignored.

'The wheels turn slow, but they are turning,' he said.

Silverstone said ACF webmasters have been accustomed to gearing their sites' content for nonprofit organizations and other agencies. But, it turned out, most of the site's visitors have been citizens. Her office is now redesigning a more citizen-centric site that should be completed by Oct. 1, she said.

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