Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More User Friendly E-Government?

The Post today reported on a planned hearing on making government sites more friendly to Google:

""It [unfriendly websites] could be unintentional oversight or incompetence," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center of Democracy and Technology, which plans to release a report today with OMB Watch, a watchdog group, that shows that basic government information often does not show up in results provided by search engines run by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com.

Today's hearing comes nearly five years after the E-Government Act required government agencies to make information more accessible electronically. The law is scheduled to be reauthorized soon.

According to the report, simple queries -- about, say, small-farm loans, or visitation rights for grandparents -- miss critical information because many agencies do not organize their Web sites so they can be easily indexed by search engines. Some agencies embed codes in their sites that make certain pages invisible to search engines."

Makes sense to me. Of course, right now the Government Printing Office is undertaking an elaborate project to revamp its efforts. And the OMB official who testified started by plugging USA.gov. Too many agencies fell into the trap of thinking their web site is where people want to go (which is what I thought when I retired), when all too often people (i.e., me) want a Google search to find their answer and to hell with the nice introductory web site.

See here for a joint report by OMB Watch and CDT.

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