July 31, 2009 By Chad Vander Veen
The era of the ubiquitous Google search bar on Web sites is over. At least it is on the Washington state portal. Officials in Olympia announced Thursday the state Web site will incorporate Microsoft's new Bing search engine.
"Adding Bing to Access Washington will improve the relevancy of search results on the portal, allowing users to find the information they are looking for faster and with greater accuracy," said Jim Albert, the deputy director of operations for the Department of Information Services.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has been touting Bing as the first-ever "decision engine" designed to provide users with more relevant search results that aid their decision-making. It was launched in May.
"Bing is not just a search engine; it is the first-ever decision engine aimed at providing a richer search experience grouped around the way people want to view the data," Gail Thomas-Flynn, general manager of Microsoft's state and local government business, told Government Technology. "The search data has much higher relevancy and is grouped in a number of ways. The search results may be a document, image or video; you select the grouping you want to review.
"Bing also provides a 'hover' button that allows you to see a brief snapshot of the data before you jump to the site. This also includes video, which is very cool. This feature alone saves significant time when searching for data. The Washington state residents can look forward to finding data on state government and services quickly and efficiently, which with current government transparency projects can only be a good direction."
Whether Bing will truly make a difference in how Washington residents use their state Web site remains to be seen. But, should the move prove successful, the migration to Bing is easy, according to Thomas-Flynn.
"The transition to Bing was very simple and straightforward. Any other state, county or city wishing to transition will have a similar experience. The data is already exposed to the Internet for search, and Bing makes an API [application programming interface] available for the customer to enable transition. Washington was able to leverage the easy-to-use Bing search API to transition from their old search solution to Bing with minimal effort."
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.