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Labor Department Web page is a big "hit."

In September 1995, the Department of Labor went online with its own home page: http://www.dol.gov. With many easy connections and a minimum of graphics, it logs over 7 million visits, or "hits" every month.

The paths that lead from the home page offer so many choices it would take a dedicated user weeks to trace all of them, CPAs probably will find the most useful button "Statutory and Regulatory Information." Users click on it and find themselves with more choices: a summary of laws and regulations, statutes, the unified agenda of federal regulations, appropriate titles in the code of federal regulations, proposed regulations and compliance information.

Information for practitioners and industry CPAs

The compliance information button, for example, links the user to easy-to-understand explanations about employer requirements. The summary button provides links to explanations about the DOL regulations that apply to specific businesses--it's even possible to download material designed especially for small businesses, including information on pensions and benefits regulations.

What ira user doesn't know exactly what he or she is looking for? Like many DOL pages, the statutory and regulatory information page has a search button at the top. A user can click on it and enter a word or phrase. "Accountant," for example, will give a user over 20 items, such as "limitation on scope of accountant's examination" and "waiver of examination and report of an independent qualified public accountant for employers." A click on any one leads directly to that document. Items can be read online, printed or stored on a hard disk.

Navigating all these links is not confusing. The Web site resembles a big family tree that keeps branching. The Web browser--software such as Spry Mosaic or Netscape that connects a user to a Web site--has arrows that offer access to previous pages. Users who get truly lost should note that most pages have a home icon that leads straight back to the DOL home page.

The borderless government

Interagency connections are no problem on the Web: The DOL links users seamlessly to a variety of agencies. CPAs trying to research demographics for a management consulting services engagement could without knowing it find themselves in the Census Bureau Web page. A continued search for pension information will lead to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The DOL is even linked to international sites, such as the International Labor Organization.

And this is all just the beginning. Roland Droitsch, Internet organizer for the DOL Web page, told the Journal that "the effort to date has been to get the regulatory information up, which is something we're still working on." Over the next year, the DOL hopes to become more interactive. "We want a system that allows people to comment on DOL issues and file DOL forms. The technology is available; we're just working on a simple, effective security system." Ideally, such a system--passwords or floppy disks that act like keys--will be universal across all federal government Web sites. Meanwhile, Droitsch advises users to periodically click on the "What's New" button on the home page to keep track of the DOL's Web advances.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:518
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