March 8, 2006 By Chad Vander Veen
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is something of a conundrum. Outsiders tend to imagine Arkansas as primarily pastoral with an economy based largely on agriculture. Considering much of that description is true, many are surprised to discover that Huckabee is recognized across the country as a lead advocate of e-government services.
On the surface, a rustic lifestyle and high tech don't seem to mix well. Deeper analysis, however, suggests that the combination is symbiotic. Technology has advanced to the point where it binds people together instead of isolating the haves and have-nots.
Huckabee has long been aware that technology can bring government closer to the people instead of acting as barricade.
"In a rural state like Arkansas, technology erases the distance and makes the disadvantages become advantages," he said. "People can live in the mountains or on a lake and have peace and fresh air, yet be connected to the world."
Huckabee's activism in e-government proliferation propelled Arkansas to new heights, including a top-10 finish in the 2004 Digital States Survey -- a study conducted by the Center for Digital Government. Arkansas excelled in the four areas covered by the study -- service delivery, architecture and infrastructure, collaboration, and leadership.
Accolades and awards, however, are not worth the paper on which they're printed if the end product doesn't improve the lives of Arkansans -- which is why Huckabee never loses focus on his motivation for delivering e-government services.
"Our goal is to make every state service available online, from car tags to a hunting license to information and reservations in a state park," he said. "It saves time and money for our citizens, and keeps state government open 24/7."
As the first governor with a blog and online forum, Huckabee makes himself available to constituents in a way never before possible -- fostering relationships that traditional mediums don't allow.
"I have always believed that getting my message to the people directly was superior to having it edited and interpreted by newspapers," Huckabee said. "Being online means the message is clear and pure."
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