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FirstGov.gov Unveils Next Generation Search Engine

Posted January 24, 2006

Citizen access to official government information, forms, frequently asked questions – even Podcasts – took a historic leap forward today with the launch of new search capabilities added to the U.S. government’s official web portal – FirstGov.gov.

FirstGov.gov, in concert with private sector partners Vivísimo, Inc., and the Microsoft Corp., has launched the government’s most powerful search engine, one that vastly expands the search to include federal, state, local tribal and territorial documents; increases the universe of government documents from 8 million to 40 million and searches more efficiently and effectively by leveraging the powerful Microsoft MSN search index which returns relevant results through sophisticated algorithms.

In addition, the newly enhanced FirstGov.gov search leverages Vivísimo’s metasearching technology which is unique in government and uses clustering technology to organize thousands of search results into categories to help citizens locate government information.  It also gives users search results they can trust by providing only official U.S. government information.

The new search capabilities to FirstGov.gov cost taxpayers $1.8 million, about half of current search services, generating savings that can be reinvested into further enhancements.

The newly enhanced FirstGov.gov search also allows users to determine the relevancy of an individual result before leaving the search page through the preview function; provides enhanced search on kids.gov, espanol.gov and consumeraction.gov; and creates a more citizen-centric government, fulfilling President Bush’s pledge.

“The new FirstGov.gov search delivers a much richer, more productive search experience for citizens and government employees,” said M.J. Pizzella, Associate Administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC). “The new search moves us closer to our objective -- a customer service center for the government that delivers official, quality information.”

As one example, a person who typed “Social Security” in the old search engine would get a link to the Social Security Administration and some related websites.  The new search delivers several ways to quickly zero in on the information the user really wants, like:

  • Most frequently asked Social Security questions by citizens who have called 1-800-FED-INFO, the U.S. Government's telephone hotline. (1-800-FED-INFO answered 8.5 million calls last year about federal programs and services.)
  • Recommended Web sites from the editors at MyMoney.gov;
  • Social Security forms;
  • Podcasts from official government sources discussing Social Security issues; and
  • A new “clustering” feature that takes thousands of search results and categorizes them by topic.

Searches on the new FirstGov.gov pull results from the USAJOBS database of federal job listings, Forms.gov’s database of federal forms, MyMoney.gov’s database of recommended personal finance Web sites, and automobile rankings from Fueleconomy.gov and the National Highway Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA.gov).  Over time, other data sources will be added to further improve citizen services.

“As the gateway to government and winner of the Innovations in American Government Award, Firstgov must be anchored by a state of the art search engine,” said Patricia McGinnis, President and CEO of The Council for Excellence in Government. “I applaud this significant leap ahead, which will benefit all citizens, who are both the customers and owners of government.”

FirstGov.gov, the award-winning federal portal, provides government information and services to citizens, businesses and other governments, and is an integral part of USA Services, one of the Presidential E-Gov initiatives created in 2003.

USA Services delivers information and services to citizens through multiple channels.  This includes the Internet, email, telephone, and publication distribution. 

Last year, USA Services reported 230 million public contacts, of which 8.6 million were through 1-800-FED-INFO (for telephone and email), 8.2 million publications were distributed through the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) in Pueblo, Colorado, and 179 million were FirstGov.gov.