"The point is the exchange of information among governments and learning from each other,'' said Sally Matthews, program manager at the Office of Intergovernmental Solutions, who serves as webmaster for the site.
"Look at the smart cards. If you see what other countries are doing and what we're doing in the United States, we can find out what lessons we might learn to create a product that's wildly successful.''
In fact, smart cards are the topic du jour in the first online issue of the "Intergovernmental Solutions Newsletter,'' which is on the site. The article, penned by GSA Deputy Director Martha A. Dorris, gives an overview of worldwide trends in the use of smart cards. It includes a candid admission that the federal government picture is likely to develop more slowly than that of state and local government markets, particularly for customers involved with benefits, transportation and education services.
A global tip: The world's largest and most sophisticated use of contact-free smart cards in automatic fare collection is in Hong Kong, Dorris writes. (No word on how that will change on midnight June 30, when the Chinese government takes over rule of the British colony.)
"We hope [the Web site] is the first place that all governments go to before they invest money and resources on information technology,'' Dorris said. "We think governments learn best from other governments. If they can save money by doing that, by raising the level of awareness, then that's what we want to do.''
Some of the information is of broad interest, such as year 2000 software crisis solutions being considered on a global level. Others are more narrow in focus, such as a link to the U.S. Geological Survey's Global Information Locator Service site.
Gaining international acceptance, GILS is an effort to introduce context characteristics in information resource searches to cut down on a glut of unwanted references. (So, when you're searching for video versions of "Gone With the Wind,'' you can let the search engine know that you're looking for a classic tale of the South - not a tornado-tracking Web site.)
Of particular interest to integrators may be both the international and state government information technology directories that are on the site.
Whether the person's job is "Diensten van de Eerste Minister'' of Belgium or "Direccion General de Estadistica y Censo'' of Honduras, the directory provides telephone and fax links to the chief leaders behind technology spending in 61 countries. The domestic state government listings are detailed as well. California's entry lists eight contacts, from Chief Information Officer John Thomas Flynn to top officials overseeing health, welfare and general services.