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1/22/2003
01:57 PM
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City Ogles Google Impact

The city of San Diego's search appliance left employees and citizens hanging. Then it turned to Google.

It's difficult to imagine getting more from a $23,000 investment in search technology than the city of San Diego has gotten from its deployment of a Google Inc. search appliance.

The city had been running an older original-equipment-manufacturer version of Verity Inc.'s information-retrieval software, and it wasn't getting the results it needed, either for its citizens or its employees. For instance, the public would get no results when it entered the word "maps" when looking for directions to city facilities, and employees had little success with terms such as "GroupWise" (the Novell E-mail software used by city workers) and "E-Pay" (a tool that provides intranet access to direct-deposit check stubs). When the city asked Verity how to solve the problem, the vendor suggested an upgrade to its K2 knowledge-management suite, as well as a taxonomy engine.

That option would have cost the city more than it wanted to spend, but as luck would have it, Google came knocking. Bill Cull, the city's E-government program manager, says that because city officials were so familiar with Google, it was hard to ignore the vendor's pitch. It also didn't hurt that it was being offered a special price as a public entity. The city opted for a single Google server with a license to search an index of up to 150,000 documents. The result has been a welcome improvement for the city's 8,000 computer-equipped employees and its nearly 250,000 unique monthly site visitors: Cull says employees are using stuff they didn't know existed, and citizens are sending E-mail about the search success they're having.

"When we saw it in action, we found that it was pulling up Documentum files, our Sun One portal, and even database applications," he says. Now, employees are able to enter "GroupWise" in the search engine and find a link to their Web-based E-mail access and find check-stub data by typing in "E-Pay." And the city has been able to simplify other tasks, such as finding related documents with data that previously would have been duplicated or populating an online calendar by using Google to pull items from the city's events database. All this, and the server and software were up and running in 30 minutes. Says Cull, "It's hard to measure the value to the city."

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