• the state. Users can share information in real time.

    In 2004, the Center for Digital Government ranked Michigan No. 1 in its annual Digital States Survey, citing how the state changed the citizen and business experience through a broad suite of real-time transactional services.

    "We're using information technology to support and enhance the core functions of Michigan government, and to position our state as a global economic powerhouse in the 21st century," said Granholm when the rankings were announced. "Information technology is playing a critical role in every aspect of our work."

    -- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

    Dr. Michael Hall

    Deputy State Superintendent, Information Technology

    Georgia Department of Education

    Changing the Course of Education

    When Michael Hall became principal of Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Ga., seven years ago, the school had fewer than 100 computers and no network in place. When Hall left last year, Houston County High was one of only two schools in the country named "Best of the Best" in the 2004 Twenty-First Century Schools of Distinction Award Program.

    Based on that track record, Hall was appointed by the Georgia Department of Education in 2004 to oversee administrative, educational and internal technology for the entire state. He also oversees the department's statewide Student Information System project.

    "I like the challenge of solving today's problems or developing new strategies with solutions that weren't invented 10 years ago and change so rapidly," Hall said. "Changes made in public-sector IT greatly impact the direction and sustainability of our society as we know it."

    Hall turned Houston County High into one of the few completely wireless schools in Georgia. More than 1,200 computers, 13 wireless labs and nine fixed labs now play an integral part in students' daily education at the facility.

    Hall said his biggest challenge is helping people understand the role of IT in a digital society.

    "Education is an area of the public sector that has the greatest impact on our future success, but yet is the least receptive to change," he said. "Providing 21st century learning environments for students today requires both philosophical and pedagogical changes. Twenty-first century learning environments promote student engagement, collaboration and individualized learning plans. Technology changes the role of the teacher to one of being a facilitator of information rather than the source of information."

    Hall said health care, economic development and education top his list of the biggest challenges facing government today.

    "Each area carries its own unique obstacles, and yet they also significantly impact the success of each other," he said. "Government will be required to make some tough choices on priorities and funding will be a major issue. Government will also be faced with some new IT challenges that will cause a significant change in the status quo. Connectivity, mobility and capability of digital cities are going to drastically change the way government functions and the types and number of services offered."

    -- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

    Bob Hanson


    Sarasota County, Fla.

    Committed to Collaboration

    Bob Hanson sees the big picture.

    Hanson led Sarasota County's effort to acquire a massive data center that serves as a focal point for regional collaboration. He's consolidating countywide school and government data networks to unlock IT dollars for other projects. And he's working with two other counties to create a disaster recovery cooperative that would allow the jurisdictions to back each other up in case of emergency.

    Hanson views collaboration as the future for government, and he's building a track record that proves the wisdom of that approach.

    Several years ago, he convinced county officials to buy Arthur