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USA.gov Adds Three New Web 2.0 Tools to Government's Arsenal

With a long history of providing electronic access to government information through the Web, USA.gov is delivering on a commitment to use Web 2.0 tools to keep access to official government information on the cutting edge.

GSA today announced the availability of three new Web 2.0 tools to better serve the public: 
• a government-wide news feed service;
• a gadget gallery of online applications; and
• a word cloud depicting the most popular government online content.

USA.gov, managed by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, implemented these interactive tools to improve on what has already been declared the most effective federal web site in 2007 and 2008 by the Brookings Institution.

“Using these Web 2.0 tools is a huge opportunity for government to be transparent and save valuable tax dollars, said Beverly Godwin, Director of USA.gov and Web Best Practices.  “Tools such as RSS feeds and gadgets allow the public to directly access content from the original source, no matter which website they’re on.  It reduces duplication across government because an agency creates content once and makes it available for reuse by others.” 

The first and most robust tool is the Government News Aggregator, which allows citizens to receive consolidated news and information from across the federal government, delivered via RSS feeds or really simple syndication.  The service (http://news.usa.gov/) lets anyone subscribe to news feeds on USA.gov, and receive fast-breaking news updates in industry standard feed readers. With this tool, the public no longer has to scour a vast array of government websites to follow news that’s relevant to them.  Visitors who don’t use RSS can also bookmark the Breaking Government News page in their web browser.

Citizens can subscribe to news feeds on virtually every topic: agriculture, business, economics, consumer news and recalls, defense, foreign affairs, education, jobs, general government and reference, environment, energy, family, home and community, health and nutrition, public safety and law, science, and technology. To provide the service USA.gov is partnering with NewsGator and using a leading enterprise RSS software tool, behind some of the world’s most popular RSS readers for Windows, Web and the Mac.

Behind the scenes, USA.gov content managers select the best government news articles for distribution. This human element ensures that only the most relevant content is being delivered through the feeds, which ultimately means a better experience for the public.

The second tool is a Government Gadget Gallery with a collection of gadgets or widgets organized by topic and created by subject matter experts across government. The government gadgets or widgets are online tools developed by one agency and shared. Anyone can embed these gadgets in personalized home pages, blogs, and other sites. Examples of gadgets include the drug finder hosted by the Food and Drug Administration which will allow you to search a medication by name and get specific information, the environmental tip of the day or the FBI’s predators and missing persons. Once added, the gadget requires no technical maintenance for the user because the original information source will update the content.

The third tool is a USA.gov Word Cloud that is a visual representation of the top 75 most popular search terms on USA.gov, with the most frequently used words given greater prominence or larger font. The word cloud was an idea inspired by change.gov. This graphic depiction allows a person to see at a glance which key words are searched the most according to site traffic.

Launching these initiatives is part of a larger effort of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services to provide leadership to the government web manager community.  These efforts include sponsoring the Federal Web Managers Council; supporting the Web Managers Forum, a grassroots community of 1,500 federal, state, and local web managers across the country; managing Web Manager University; and sharing web best practices via WebContent.gov.

GSA is changing the relationship citizens have with their government by making official government information accessible to the public through multiple channels, including, telephone, email, television, radio, traditional web content, print publications and now Web 2.0.