They’re already indexing every book on the planet, so why not government data? GovExec reports that Google is trying to open government data to Internet search engines (though I can’t imagine which one they have in mind!) to better enable users to find pertinent information that’s currently buried in “the deep Web”, as it’s known. Many people would like to search on grant opportunities for a particular area — I know this is true because we (a systems integration company with a specialization in federal grants management) often get calls from individuals asking us to help them find such opportunities — and unless they know about Grants.gov and figure out how its own search engine works, they’re out of luck.
The Grants.gov PMO has rightly said that they can’t open up their whole database for indexing because that would open up private data to a public site. In thinking about this problem, though, there is a cheap and fast solution: Use RSS. If Grants.gov were to publish an XML feed of all grant opportunities via RSS — which wouldn’t be too difficult, considering there’s already a Web Service for this data — anyone (search engines, individuals, aggregators) could consume that feed and index the results. Moreover, regular people in the street could subscribe to the feed, or even use their RSS readers to filter the feed on whatever criteria they’re interested in (e.g. “small business grant”). I like this solution because it’d be quick, inexpensive to implement, low maintenance, and move Grants.gov further towards being a publisher of data rather than a data broker.