Got tech smarts? Not everyone does, Google exec reminds

Don't forget about the 33 percent of American adults who aren't using the Internet, or the novice users who don't know their way around a Web page, a Google Inc. executive warned government and industry information technology executives today.

Dave Girouard, general manager of enterprise for the Mountain View, Calif., company, creator of the popular Google search engine, spoke at the Management of Change conference in Philadelphia.

The American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council sponsored the government-industry conference.

"If you live in technology, it's hard to put yourself in other people's heads," Girouard said. "You have to think about the other guy who's not familiar with technology and [government] organization charts."

He praised FirstGov.gov, the federal portal for government services and information. There, citizens can get help without knowing which agency is providing the service or information they need, he said.

Girouard said one of the best ways to draw non-tech-savvy citizens to online information and services is a simple search function. While Google has evolved to include features such as a calculator, dictionary, phone book and stock tracker, its home page consists of a handful of words and a simple search box.

"It invites people to participate before becoming experts," he said.

Google's more than 50 federal clients like the ease of use of the simple interface, Girouard said. The agencies can customize the interface, but many choose not to because the Google look is so familiar to citizens and employees, he said.

It's also crucial that the search function produce the results that users need, Girouard said. He said 82 percent of Web site visitors use the site search function. If the search doesn't work, more than 60 percent will leave the site, he said.

According to the company, Google is the world's largest search engine and one of the five most popular Internet sites in the world. The company is preparing for an initial public offering of its stock.

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