Plenty has been written about government's need to integrate stand-alone systems, form regional alliances, and in general, adopt innovative ways of conducting business. Those statements usually come with apologetic references to political and cultural gridlock that make it virtually impossible to achieve real government reform.

In this issue, we present 25 reasons why that's simply untrue.

The individuals named to Government Technology's fourth annual Top 25 are changing how public agencies use technology -- and in the process, they're reshaping government itself.

Our list of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers" for 2004 is a cross section of public officials -- ranging from state and local CIOs, to city managers, mayors and governors. These folks found plenty of room to operate, and they certainly weren't afraid to try something new.

Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn played an instrumental role in bringing open standards and open-source software to state government, with the ultimate goal of building applications shared openly and democratically by other government agencies of all levels.

Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett scrapped state civil-service protections for his Department of Technology and Information staff to create a more entrepreneurial work force.

Sarasota County, Fla., CIO Robert Hanson convinced county officials to purchase a former commercial data center and its computing horsepower, and the county now acts as an application service provider for neighboring communities.

Our 2004 Top 25 also acknowledges the vital role executive sponsorship plays in IT success. For instance, one of Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's first official acts was to demand reform of state IT operations. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm used information technology to strengthen core functions of government and position her state to compete in the global economy.

Finally this year's list includes our first nongovernment members.

Chris Warner's unique company, Engaging and Empowering Citizenship, epitomizes the power of public/private partnerships. Warner's firm, the driving force behind the revolutionary Earth 911 environmental portal, now performs a pivotal role in deploying a national Amber Alert portal. Sharon Dawes compiled a lengthy track record for investigating how IT can improve government as director of the Albany, N.Y.-based Center for Technology in Government.

Our 2004 Top 25 is an eclectic group of individuals with at least one thing in common: They used innovative technologies and policies to deliver real, meaningful results.

We believe our Top 25 represents the best in government IT. These officials prove technical innovation doesn't just occur in the private sector -- indeed, they've set a standard that's second to none.