Federal government activities now can be monitored in (near) real time

New GSA service provides customized alerts on government agency activities and announcements, from egg recalls to health reform and foreign policy developments.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Over the past few months, we've been reporting on how the US federal government has been increasing its "sociability," from crowdsourcing to social networking to e-government. Now, it appears another step has been taken in the direction of applying technology to open up information to the people.

The US General Services Administration (GSA) just announced the launch of real-time government notifications on the USA.gov website. The GSA's Notifications Dashboard, powered by GovDelivery, a private contractor, is intended to help the public to find, search, and sign up for real-time updates -- mainly press releases and announcements -- from the federal government. Users can then register  to receive ongoing updates on the topic directly from the appropriate federal agencies by email, SMS, or RSS feed -- depending on what channels the agency is using.

The menu supplies users with a live stream of content and a Twitter-like search capability, as well as a filterable view of information and subscriptions available across the federal government.

For example, taking a cue from my colleague Heather Clancy's latest post on the Environmental Protection Agency's phasing out its Climate Leaders program, entering the phrase "EPA federal sustainability" into the Notifications Dashboard yielded 17 results at the time of this writing, from an announcement welcoming West Virginia University as the EPA's newest partner in its regional sustainability initiative to an EPA blog post on a speech by Paul Anastas, Ph.D., EPA’s assistant administrator for the office of research and development at the American Chemical Society’s Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.

A search using the phrase "NASA" yielded 336 results, from news about the Mars mission laser tool heading to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for installation aboard the next Mars rover, due to launch in 2011, to an item about a NASA astronaut sending the first American Sign Language message from space.

Dave McClure, GSA associate administrator of citizen services and innovative technologies, describes the thinking behind the notification site:

"This new service makes it easier for the public to see what new information government is posting on any given topic in real time and makes it simple for people to register ongoing updates on topics of interest. USA.gov's recently upgraded search functionality allows the public to search for information across the entire federal government, and this new capability complements that broad search by allowing the public to see the most-current federal updates on issues ranging from egg recalls and emergency alerts to health reform and foreign policy."

(Photo credit: Joe McKendrick)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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