January 1, 2006 By Steve Towns
Gov. Rick Perry is determined to make Texas a top destination for innovative technology companies and IT professionals. Cities such as Austin already attract more than their share of high-tech employers. But Perry envisions the state becoming a true "epicenter" of the technology industry, edging out traditional heavyweights such as northern Virginia and California's Silicon Valley.
He views the state's Emerging Technology Fund, which Perry signed into law in June 2005, as pivotal to attracting scientists and researchers to Texas universities, and thousands of high-tech jobs to communities throughout the state. The fund sets aside $200 million for investments that increase research collaboration between public- and private-sector entities, and providing seed money for innovative start-up companies.
Perry also signed telecom reform legislation in September 2005, which the governor credits with luring $800 million in communications infrastructure improvements from SBC. The bill -- which simplified regulation and boosted competition for video, cable and telecommunication services -- played a key role in SBC's decision to beef up video and high-speed Internet technology in Texas. The improvements lay the groundwork for delivering high-speed voice, data and video transmissions through electric power lines.
In an interview with Texas Technology, Perry discussed his views on using information technology to boost government efficiency, stimulate local economies, protect citizens and improve the quality of life.
Q: The cover story of the first issue of Texas Technology magazine focused on the IT reforms going on here in the state, particularly the changes brought about by HB 1516. What do you want these reforms to accomplish?
A: I may speak even in broader terms than that. IT is an ever-changing world. It's never static -- it hasn't been, certainly, in my 20 years of being involved in the political process. Government should be all about making things more efficient, making them more effective. And that's what information technology really is about -- it's getting information to people in a simpler form or more quickly, or saving taxpayers money because you've created a single Web portal where you can go, and it's a one-stop shop.
I want to have people around like [state CTO] Larry Olson who are on the edge of new technologies, new concepts. And then broader than that, I want to make this state a haven for those technological advances. So how do you put out the welcome mat for companies to come into the state and to invest in the state? That's where our Emerging Technology Fund becomes very important; it's a major tool to lure men and women who share our vision for technology, and to make Texas the real epicenter for technology innovation.
We're working on some really intriguing projects right now -- some of which I'm not at liberty to talk about -- that could change this state substantially in the future.
Q: Do some of the IT reforms going on right now -- the centralization, the consolidation -- build a foundation for that work?
A: The consolidation will help state government function more efficiently. But I don't look at it just as state government. I look at my role as being a coordinator between the private and public sectors.
I'm talking about how you make the state more friendly to technology; the people who have the fertile minds -- the scientists, the technologists -- why will they want to come to Texas? What have we created here that is enticing for them to move here, to invest here? That is the next big thing from my perspective.
Of course, we'll keep pushing the DIR [Department of Information Resources] and pushing state agencies for more efficiency. The Legislature's gonna meet, and members are gonna say, "Okay, I want you to do this, this,
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