In his recent report Access America: Reengineering
Through Information Technology, Vice President Gore
restated the Administration's goal of using information
technology to "make it easier for users of information,
including citizens, scientists, resource managers, and
private industry" to find the specific Government
information they need (http://www.gits.fed.gov). The
goal is to utilize information technology to create a
Government that works better and costs less.
Since the report contained in the 1996, Information
Resources Management Plan was published,
significant progress has been made in providing
thematically based, crosscutting information of
particular interest available through a single World
Wide Web (WWW) site that is internally searchable.
This combination of information linkages and robust
internal search capabilities provides a form of "one
stop shopping" that is further enhancing the ability of
the Internet to support userfriendly and increasingly
useful access to Government information. Web
browsers and the popular search services can easily
identify sources of information on particular topics.
However, all too often the search provides a long
string of relevant web sites that need to be accessed
and evaluated separately. Federal agencies are
learning that, by combining wideranging but related
collections of information on a single web site having
its own internal search engine, a "one stop shopping"
environment can be created.
The following are some examples of the steps now
being taken to improve the Government's
dissemination of information and to use information
technology to improve service delivery to the public:
FedStats -- One Stop Shopping for Federal
Statistics. Over 70 agencies of the Federal
government provide statistics of interest to the
public. Until recently it was difficult for the general
public, and even frequent data users such as social
science researchers, to know about and to access the
extensive amount of statistical information produced
by the decentralized U.S. Federal statistical system.
The purpose of FedStats (http://www.fedstats.gov)
is to provide data users with easy access via an
initial point of entry to the wide array of Federal
statistics of interest to the public without their
having to know in advance which agencies produce
the data they are seeking or how the Federal
statistical system is organized. FedStats builds on
the excellent WWW sites that individual agencies
have developed for disseminating Federal statistics
and advances many of the statistical agencies' goals
for improved customer service and efficiency in the
statistical arena. In addition to a robust search
engine, FedStats provides multiple avenues to access
data and information including: Subjects A to Z, fast
facts, a site map, listings by agency and by program,
regional statistics, subject matter experts, press
releases, policy developments, and links to
nonFederal data sources. As FedStats matures, the
benefits to the public and to the agencies themselves
from the reduced time and effort needed to locate
data will be incalculable.
Improving access to environmental information.
There are already Federal programs and activities
aimed at making environmental information more
broadly accessible for different applications and
audiences. For example, the Environmental
Protection Agency's home page
(http://www.epa.gov) was recently reorganized to
make environmental information more accessible to
a variety of users. Since September 1996, there has
been an explosion in its use, increasing from three to
five million hits per day. Also, EPA's online
Envirofacts database allows users to obtain and
combine data from up to six different databases.
The Department of Housing and Urban
Development's homepage (http://www.hud.gov) has
extensive information on lead hazard controls. Not
only can parents find basic information on lead paint
hazards, but State and local governments and
community development groups are downloading
the information and redisseminating it to their
constituents. Recognizing the need to bring together
different sources of environmental information, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
under the sponsorship of the Administration's
Interagency Committee on Environment and Natural
Resources, is developing a prototype National
Environmental Data Index (http://www.nedi.gov) that
will provide a sort of "yellow pages" to environmental
data and the search tools to link the information
available on a designated subject to the databases that
contain the information. The coverage of the
prototype will be expanded over time.
Providing practical assistance to the business
community. With over 60 Federal agencies with a
mission to assist or regulate business, finding what
is needed can be a daunting and time consuming
task. Additionally, without userfriendly interfaces
to integrate the information into a context that can
be easily understood, the sheer volume of raw
information available to the business community on
the Internet leaves many users feeling overwhelmed.
The Administration has taken the first step in
addressing this problem by developing the U.S.
Business Advisor, a onestop electronic link to
Government for business (http://www.business.gov).
The Advisor provides an easy way for business
people to get answers to frequently asked questions;
find "how to" information; search through Federal
information; browse Government documents; and
view businessrelated news items from Federal
agencies. All are searchable with an internal search
Integrating a body of regulatory information.
The Air Force is sponsoring a prototype one stop
shopping web site for people who need
procurement, regulatory and related information
both inside and outside the Government
(http://farsite.hill.af.mil). The Farsite combines the
Federal Acquisition Regulations with the regulatory
supplements of other major agencies, including the
Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration, as well as the
procurement guidance of the various military
services. The Farsite's advanced search engine
allows users to search the entire FAR and related
documents from just one web page. The page also
allows oneclick searches of manuals, administrator
guides and policy letters, and allows searches to be
crafted to cover the entire range of data or to be
limited to particular databases. This provides users,
including legal practitioners, with easy entry into a
growing body of regulatory information, saving time
and money by replacing time consuming and
expensive paperbased searches.
Improving public access to intelligence
community information. The Central Intelligence
Agency's web site (http://www.odci.gov/cia) was
designed for both the academic user and the general
public. It contains the CIA's primary publications,
The World Factbook, The Factbook on Intelligence,
and The Handbook of International Economic
Statistics. The site enhances and keeps up to date its
print publications with a number of features. For
example, the list of Chiefs of State and Cabinet
Members of foreign countries is updated monthly
and indexed by country. The site also includes
audio and video clips and photographs to discuss the
history of the CIA, to tour CIA headquarters, and to
view an Exhibit Center which includes images and
text about such items as the Enigma encoding
machine. The site includes an internal search engine
for publication and public affairs information. It
allows users to control the search query by selecting
features and provides assistance by giving helpful
tips on formulating searches.
These and other examples of using recent advances in web and related search technology to make increasing amounts of electronic information more manageable and reflects an unprecedented level of attention to the development of information dissemination practices that both integrate the vast information holdings of the Government and at the same time make them more accessible and useful to the public.
Section 9(a)(10) of OMB Circular No. A130, Management of Government Information Resources (61 F.R. 6428, February 20, 1996), provides that the head of each agency shall:
(10) Direct the senior official appointed pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 3506(b) to monitor agency compliance with the policies, procedures, and guidance in this Circular. Acting as an ombudsman, the senior official shall consider alleged instances of agency failure to comply with this Circular and recommend or take corrective action as appropriate. The senior official shall report annually, not later than February 1st of each year, to the Director those instances of alleged failure to comply with this Circular and their resolution.
Agencies were asked to report on (1) each instance in
which a failure to comply was alleged, (2) the nature
of the alleged violation, and (3) the disposition of the
complaint. Agencies that received no complaints were
asked to so state.
With one exception, the reporting agencies reported no
allegations of violations of the information policy
provisions of Circular A130 had been received.
The single exception was reported by the Department of Defense (DoD). A coalition of law librarians and public interest groups requested access to electronic versions of historical Supreme Court opinions dating from 19371974, maintained in DoD's Federal Legal Information Through Electronics (FLITE) database. DoD denied access to the database under the Freedom of Information Act. OMB resolved this issue by obtaining this material for its use and subsequently providing them for electronic public dissemination through the National Technical Information Service, the GPO Access system, and Villanova University's legal information service.
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