Needham's explanation of why agencies are not as searchable as they could be is that, "agencies don't think about how citizens go about finding the information, but how their website is presented to visitors." This is a sharp criticism, but he seemed to be challenging government web teams to see their users as starting on Google rather than the agency homepage.
Evans focused on the progress that was made on .gov sites thanks to the original E-Gov Act. Senators Lieberman and Akaka asked her several difficult questions, but her answers were sometimes either incorrect or evasive.
Lieberman asked Evans whether there were any policy decisions that would limit the searchability of information besides privacy and classification limitations. Evans said simply, "no sir". On the contrary, there are several. A short list of services with hidden content include:
PACER, a U.S. Courts service charges fees per page.
Evans was also less than genuine in her answer to Senator Akaka's question, "Why didn't OMB ask agencies to improve the searchability of their content when they set up the USA.gov search?" Evans opened her answer with, "We did." However, this is not really correct.
OMB did require agencies to have site search features that searched all public information on the site, but did not require agencies to make content visible to commercial search engines. In answer to Senator Akaka's question, OMB probably did not ask agencies to improve the searchability of content, because times were different. Fewer visitors came through Google and the Sitemap Protocol was less known.
Jimmy Wales's testimony was the most noteworthy and compelling. He focused on the value of wikis for government agencies and had several interesting things to say. I will cover this aspect of the hearing in another entry soon.