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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
(Santa Monica, California)


For Immediate Release
June 24, 2000

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN FIRST INTERNET WEBCAST

Los Angeles, California

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Here in America, a revolution in technology is underway. It is more than a time of innovation, it's a time of fundamental transformation, the kind that happens, at most, every hundred years. Today, in my first Saturday Webcast, I'd like to speak to you about how we can seize the potential of this information revolution to widen the circle of our democracy and make our government much more responsive to the needs of our citizens.

Early in our history, people often had only one option when they needed the help of the national government. They had to visit a government office and stand in line. Indeed, as Vice President Gore has pointed out, after the Civil War the only way our veterans could collect their pensions was by traveling all the way to Washington. D.C. and waiting for a clerk to dig out their war records. Those war records were actually bound in red tape. That gave rise to the universal symbol of bureaucratic delay that has existed down to the present day.

Thankfully, things have gotten a lot easier for citizens over the years. In recent years, advances in computing and information technology have led to remarkable gains. Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have greatly expanded the spread of information technology throughout the government, cutting reams of red tape, putting vast resources at the fingertips of all of our citizens. Citizens now are using government websites to file their taxes, compare their Medicare options, apply for student loans, and find good jobs. They're tapping into the latest health research, and browsing vast collections in the Library of Congress, and following along with NASA's missions in outer space. This is just the beginning.

Today I'm pleased to announce several major steps in our efforts to go forward in creating a high-speed, high-tech, user-friendly government. First, we're going to give our citizens a single, customer-focused website where they can find every on-line resource offered by the federal government.

This new website, firstgov.gov, will be created at no cost to the government by a team led by Eric Brewer, who developed one of the most successful Internet search technologies with the help of government grants. In the spirit of cutting through red tape, this new website will be created in 90 days or less. It will uphold the highest standards for protecting the privacy of its users.

When it's complete, firstgov will serve as a single point of entry to one of the largest, perhaps the most useful collection of web pages in the entire world. Whether you want crucial information in starting a small business, or you want to track your Social Security benefits, you can do it all in one place, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Second, now that we're poised to create one-stop shopping for government services, we'll also greatly expand the scope of those services. Increasingly, we'll give our citizens not only the ability to send and receive information, but also to conduct sophisticated transactions on-line.

For example, this year the federal government will award about $300 billion in grants, and buy $200 billion in goods and services. Over the coming year, we will make it possible for people to go on-line and compete for these grants and contracts through a simplified electronic process. Moving this enormous volume of business on-line will save a great deal of money and time for our taxpayers. It will also expand opportunities for community groups, small businesses, and citizens who never before have had a chance to show what they can do.

Third, in conjunction with the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government, we're launching a major competition to spur new innovative ideas for how government can serve and connect with our citizens electronically. The Council will award up to $50,000 to those students, researchers, private sector workers or government employees who present the most creative ideas.

In the early years of our republic, Thomas Jefferson said, "America's institutions must move forward hand in hand with the progress of the human mind." Well, today, the progress of the human mind is certainly racing forward at break-neck speed. If we work together, we can ensure that our democratic institutions keep pace. With your help, we can build a more perfect, more responsive democracy for the Information Age.

Thanks for listening.

END

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