I can't help laughing when I hear a curmudgeon complain that "Computers are ruining kids and making them couch potatoes." And I laugh often because it's a common refrain. I wish the naysayers could meet 23-year-old Tim Howell, who is in charge of IT operations for Hutto, Texas.
No, that's not a misprint. He really is 23.
Imagine that: A young man is using computers to improve government's efficiency and service delivery -- not just for video games. And he's a member of the coveted (and feared) Millennial generation, the 8- to 28-year-olds who promise to change the very fabric of what governments do and how they do it.
Howell's precociousness reminds me of a quote from Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." Yes, Howell proves that the Millennials are really here.
I can't pretend to know what's going on inside the Millennial mind. (I'm too old.) So I asked Howell to write a first-person account of how he uses IT to deal with the rapidly growing population in Hutto, which is a short drive north of Austin. Howell apparently takes seriously his commitment to the participatory tools of Web 2.0; he took several of the photographs that accompany his article.
Howell acknowledges that he holds a unique position at his young age. "I think as a Millennial, I have to seek input from other generations and really look at things from their perspective to get the necessary buy-in," he wrote. "The biggest differences I see between the Millennials and other generations is that we tend to question the motives of authority and view work as just a job. Those differences should also affect how Hutto serves its citizens."
With this youthful theme in mind, this issue of Texas Technology also includes several stories about education. Think of it as our belated back-to-school issue.
Contributing Writer Melissa Camilleri Magliola writes about how calculators and computers were used to raise the math test scores of one school district. Contributing Writer Patrick Michels profiles a one-of-a-kind school -- the University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston -- that studies biomedical informatics, the science of handling medical information. Features Editor Andy Opsahl details how the Houston Public Library renovated its main branch and systemwide operations to keep itself relevant in the Information Age.
In addition, Staff Writer Hilton Collins serves up a timely story about El Paso County's effort to build a new data center to replace the one currently housed in the flood-prone county courthouse. Several government stakeholders are interested in the proposed co-location facility, said El Paso Chief Technology Officer Peter Cooper. It's the kind of bread-and-butter IT issue that's sure to keep on popping up -- even when the Millennials are long gone in retirement.
Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2