Government Site Opens Up More to Search

A deal with Microsoft lets the U.S. government's Internet portal bring more documents to the public.

The official U.S. government Web site this week significantly expanded the number of federal, state and tribal documents its search engine can scour.

About 8 million documents were available before the upgrades were unleashed. The U.S. General Services Administration, which operates Firstgov, now estimates that 40 million government documents are available.

To make the five-fold increase, Firstgov added a new technology from Microsoft Corp.s MSN unit and Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Vivisimo.

The changes will soon be followed up with new features to search news and images.

The upgrades occur as consumers and enterprises are increasingly relying on online sources, like Firstgov, to find and download government forms and to steer through the bureaucratic thicket.

Firstgovs changes are meant to keep pace with the growing sophistication of its audience.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about other government e-initiatives.

From Microsofts perspective, this is the first time it is licensing its MSN search capabilities to a Web site outside its own online universe. The company hints that it wont be the last, either.

The Firstgov deal is valued at between $1.8 million and $18 million.

The changes to Firstgov also have political overtones. The site is a major part of President George Bushs electronic government 2003 eGov initiatives to use technology to reach more of the public and government contractors.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK commentary on e-government.

The changes to the site "creates a more citizen-centric government, fulfilling President Bushs pledge," according to a GSA press release.

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