what is Texas doing to strengthen technology, math and science programs in schools?

A: We're clearly making math and the sciences an important part of our schools -- all the way down into our elementary and middle schools. We created the Technology Workforce Development Act several years ago to increase the number of college graduates with computer science and electrical engineering degrees. And just last month, Texas 4th and 8th graders had some of the highest scores in math and reading.

That's not to say that history and others subjects are not important, but in the technology world, you'd better understand science and math. We obviously give them a little special cache.

  

Q: Texas just took in hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. We've heard quite few stories about state, local and private industry officials coming together to create systems to locate victims, to help find them housing and other vital tasks. Is that a good model for the future?

A: I think it's a good starting point. One of the reasons we practice disasters so often is so that when the real thing happens, we learn from every exercise we go through. We had over 150 exercises from Sept. 11, 2001, until Katrina struck Louisiana. So all of those helped us to be more efficient.

Were we perfect? No. did we learn things? Absolutely. And there were things we learned about our technology capability or our lack of capacity and capabilities that we're taking now and developing new procedures, so that next time a disaster strikes, we're better prepared.

All in all, it was a very good effort by the state government and local governments and volunteers and the private sector. It was a real collaborative effort. And technology was absolutely a very important part of that. So satellite technology and developing telecommunications approaches that give the ability to communicate with people in a disaster area are very important. Dealing with the potential for a massive pandemic, that's another challenge. There are things we might not have even thought about 60 or 120 days ago, that are very much on our radar screen now, and technology will help us address those.

And we haven't even addressed technology's impact on the quality of life. In Texas laboratories, in the fertile minds of scientists and researchers, are cures for diseases that have hamstrung us forever. Or cures for new ones that have cropped up that are causing us great heartache. The answers to those and other maladies are in the laboratories. And to get them from the laboratory to commercialization is the goal of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

Steve Towns  |  Executive Editor