By Shane Peterson | News Editor

As Idahos Gov. Dirk Kempthorne works to make his state stronger, he is eager to take on his role as the new leader of the Western Governors Association.

Q: What do you see as the biggest technology issues facing Idaho and other Western states?

A: Its to be connected. We know that the era of high technology -- and all of the opportunities that that suggests -- is upon us. We want to see that state government can avail itself of those opportunities. We

also want to make sure that were progressing; that we can help the citizens so that government can be efficient; and that were a partner with business so business can say, "Yes, thats a progressive area of the country." Forbes magazine named its top 10 cities in America for a

pro-business, entrepreneurial atmosphere -- eight of those top 10 were in the Western states. If youre going to retain that sort of leadership position, youd better be progressive and using the latest technology.

Q: When it comes to connecting rural areas, do you see telephone companies as adversaries or partners? Or are they dragging their heels?

A: My experience has been that they are very desirous of being partners. They want to help us with the connectivity. They are in business, and they need to look at their bottom line and see if it makes economic sense. When you look at our rural areas, the potential is there. But, if for some reason we physically are unable to bring those rural areas into this high-tech atmosphere, their full potential is not going to be reached.

Q: Im looking at the WGAs (Western Governors Association) High Technology Councils business plan, which speaks of nurturing public/private alliances to foster regional collaboration. How high a priority is that sort of thing going to be for you in the future?

A: A very high priority. We have a tremendous opportunity, and we have some very progressive companies -- leaders in the field -- that have formed this council. There are real-life applications. When we met in Hawaii, we saw some of the new innovations, some of the new opportunities that exist. What I intend to do is convert those applications to real-life situations. We all have challenges. As I listen to the different budget requests of all the departments, how can we achieve some of the objectives by tying into this new world of high-tech? How can we reduce some of the costs of government by tying into high-tech? To have these people whose business it is to solve problems -- well, government deals with problems every day. Through a partnership, we can find more solutions together on behalf of the citizens we serve. Our citizens are their customers, so its a nice partnership.

Q: I presume the companies are receptive to the idea.

A: Yes indeed. When you have an example of something that has been very successful, other people point to it and say, "Well, this is a model." Thats a great opportunity for business to say, "You know, we can bring the same model to your state." Everyone benefits from that. Its a good

investment by the companies, but its a great service thats provided to the citizen because youre at the leading edge of some of the applications of this new technology.

Q: When states look at what other states are doing, is that a competitive atmosphere? Or is it more of, "Oh, thats a great idea. Lets try to duplicate that in our state."

A: There is competition, but its healthy competition. My experience is that states are happy to share information with one