The White House is seeking advice from the public on which websites it should shut down as part of a broad campaign by President Obama to eliminate unnecessary federal IT spending.
Last month the administration unveiled the Campaign to Cut Waste, which called for a freeze on the creation of new websites and the elimination or consolidation of 25% of the federal government's nearly 2,000 websites over the next few months. The plan also calls for the feds to cut the number of standalone websites in half in the next year.
On Tuesday, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra and Sheila Campbell, director for the Center for Excellence for Digital Government at the General Services Administration, hosted a forum online in which they outlined some of the next steps for culling websites, including the formation of a 17-person task force to oversee how it's done. The two also fielded questions from the public submitted on Facebook and Twitter.
Kundra said that prior to the campaign, agencies had been registering 50 new domain names a month. That activity has now been halted, and the task force--comprised of Web managers, CIOs, and other creative people--will meet over the coming months to get public input about how best to proceed.
The team also will reexamine federal Web policies and best practices, which have been in existence since 2004 and need to be updated, Campbell said. "Obviously, a lot has changed," she said.
The first step of the task force was to post a list of all the federal websites on the federal Data.gov online repository so people can submit their feedback on which ones should be cut, officials said.
There are 1,759 sites on the list, short of the 2,000 the feds estimated when Obama unveiled the Campaign to Cut Waste. But Kundra said Tuesday that if you take into account various subsites, there are more than 24,000 federal sites, and "having the American people navigate the jungle of these websites absolutely makes no sense."
The task force plans to use Web analytics to track not only which sites people are using the most, but also which tasks they are seeking to do when they visit the .gov domain, officials said. By focusing on these tasks, agencies can better utilize the sites that offer these services and perhaps eliminate sites or subsites that people aren't using.
"The majority of the American people are trying to accomplish the same tasks," Campbell said, citing applications for passports and financial aid, health information, and small business loans as top tasks of interest. "There is a tremendous opportunity to improve those tasks." The task force is working with agency Web managers to optimize this type of content, she added.
Officials also addressed public concerns about whether data will be lost when websites are shut down. Kundra said it will be the role of the task force--using federal records management requirements--to make sure that does not happen. "Part of what the task force is going to be doing is to make sure no records are lost as we migrate these websites," he said.
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