GSA inks deal to upgrade FirstGov search engine

The search capabilities of the government's official Internet portal will be upgraded next year, the General Services Administration announced Friday.

The new search engine for will be powered by Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Search, in partnership with another search service, The search engine is expected to be launched in the spring of 2006.

The new engine will be able to search state, local, tribal and territorial government Web sites. Later in 2006, GSA plans to launch a specific search engine within FirstGov for government news and photo images.

The current FirstGov search service, powered by Fast Search & Transfer, a Needham, Mass., company that works in partnership with AT&T, indexes about 8 million federal government Web pages. GSA expects the new service to index more than three times that amount.

The technology behind the new search capability will be based on both MSN Search and Clusty, which is run by Vivisimo Inc. of Pittsburgh. According to GSA, Clusty's technology allows for the simultaneous use of various search engines, a process known as metasearch.

Clusty is known for clustering search results in folders, grouping together similar items. For example, a search for the term "cell" organizes the top 200 or so results out of a total of nearly 75 million into the folders "cell phone," "biology," "fuel cell" and "stem cell." The search engine was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

Currently, a search for the word "cell" on FirstGov brings up nearly 300,000 results, starting with the home pages of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Radio Free Europe, and the Energy Department's Office of Science.

The new FirstGov search contract has an annual value of $1.8 million and a total potential value of $18 million.

"Together with Microsoft, we will build the finest government search portal the world has seen, helping citizens learn and profit from the rich information offered across thousands of government Web sites," said Vivísimo CEO and co-founder Raul Valdes-Perez.

After the first year of the contract, GSA has the option of switching to use search services offered by current provider Fast Search & Transfer or Gigablast Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M..

"By next year, who knows what's going to be going on in search," said M.J. Pizzella, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

Pizzella said the search enhancements will improve FirstGov's ability to guide people through "the sometimes confusing federal bureaucracy, and translate to simple yet advanced searches of government information and images."

"People are used to that right now, being able to search all the content of the world real quickly," Pizzella said. "I don't what we did before the Web."

FirstGov won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award in May 2003 for providing users with a single access point to government services and information.

Clusty started a government search service in early 2005 that provides clustered political news, government information, public documents--such as the 2006 federal budget and the 9/11 commission report--and the findings of various think tanks.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.