Does the Government Do Anything Efficiently?
The Answer is a Resounding, Yes!
Ethics Resource Center / Ethics Today 2003
The time worn humorous punch line, "I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” pokes fun at the tendency of bureaucracies to do things the hard way. In the case of FirstGov.gov, however, a government entity has gotten something right, really right indeed.
The advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web brought with it widespread access to information and a concomitant problem of where to go to find it. The first indices and search engines publicly available could help you find some information, as long as it wasn’t too esoteric and as long as you were willing to use a variety of search strings to locate specific resources you needed.
The government was one of the worst offenders. When government agencies began making information accessible to the general public, it was a daunting task to find when you needed. Your search was characterized by visits to ten or fifteen different web sites with individual searches replicated at each one. Commercial search engines were simply far behind the curve when it came to locating and indexing government information.
Over the past several years, the United States government has opened a user friendly, single stop portal for finding information at www.firstgov.gov. Is it efficient? You bet it is. Is it complete? Beyond your wildest dreams. And, yes, it is even fun to use.
According to the frequently asked questions at the Firstgov site, "FirstGov's objective is to provide a free service, enabling the global community to easily and rapidly find U.S. government information that has been posted on the Internet. It offers a powerful search engine and an index of web-accessible government information and services to help you find what you need.”
"FirstGov was created to save you time and take advantage of the simplicity and efficiency of the Internet. Most of the information you can find here has been on the Internet for a long time, but if you didn't know what you were looking for, or where to look, you couldn't find the answer to your question. Here you can find out which government office can address your concerns, and find direct links to relevant information and services. "
At the Federal government level, Firstgov offers separate gateways for citizen use, business use and government agency use although you are welcome to use any of the three. The frequently asked questions page groups questions by topic as well as by department and agency.
That’s only part of the story. Firstgov also serves as a portal for state government information. Its powerful search feature permits you to access as much, or as little, information as you want.
In trying out Firstgov, I used the search feature and entered the term "ethics” and searched by individual states. Here is a little of what I found:
CALIFORNIA – ETHICS [OVER 1,000 RELEVANT ENTRIES]
http://www.dca.ca.gov/cba/ethics.htm - The California Board of Accountancy ethics training requirements for state licensing
http://www.cjp.ca.gov/judethics.htm - The California Commission of Judicial Performance Code of Judicial Ethics Resource Center
http://www.cde.ca.gov/character/ - Curriculum reviews and resources for character education in California schools
GEORGIA – ETHICS [OVER 1,000 RELEVANT ENTRIES]
http://www2.state.ga.us/gaethics/act.html - The Georgia Ethics in Government Act
http://www.sos.state.ga.us/elections/code.htm - The Georgia Code of Ethics for Government Service
MAINE – ETHICS [743 RESULTS]
http://janus.state.me.us/house/code.htm - Maine Code of Legislative Ethics
http://janus.state.me.us/house/hsecoms.htm - Members of the Maine House of Representatives Ethics Committee
Searching for ethics at the Federal level turned up thousands of locations with information, far too many to even begin listing them here.
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