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9/22/2009
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GSA Devises Search Plan For Federal Web Sites

Dave McClure, the recently appointed GSA official responsible for GSA.gov and other sites, wants to make federal data more accessible across government Web sites.

The General Services Administration plans an upgrade to its USA.gov site and is looking to improve search capabilities across federal Web sites, according to the GSA official overseeing the strategy.

USA.gov, the federal government's primary public-facing Web portal, will be updated with a new look and content management capabilities, said Dave McClure, GSA's recently appointed associate administrator of citizen services and communications. There will be a "big splash" release within 12 months, though other changes will be iterative and made as needed, McClure said.

The government is looking to make USA.gov a "simple, effective, interactive" platform for citizen services. For example, people should find it easy to apply for government jobs online or get information on the status of California wild fires, McClure said.

Changes to USA.gov are made easier by the fact that the site is now hosted byTerremark's Enterprise Cloud services, he said. That's saving the government about $1.7 million annually on operations and capital, and the site is now able to respond quickly to spikes in demand.

McClure's office has assembled a team of experts to determine how the government can best use search technologies to make government information more accessible. "It's complicated. We have a tsunami of information," he said. "The challenge is not necessarily putting information online or even accessing it. It's putting information online in a way that's easy to consume and digestible."

The search strategy includes the potential use of machine-learning for improved results and letting users sift through multiple content types. Managers of other federal Web sites, including Recovery.gov, Data.gov, and USASpending.gov, are involved in the planning; one goal is to integrate search across sites. It's even possible that GSA could offer search as a service to other agencies, McClure said.

McClure, hired from Gartner in August, manages USA.gov, USAsearch.gov, and the Spanish-language gobierno.gov.

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