at good business deals."

Kansas also created a series of project-management standards and distilled those principles into a 250-page textbook. State project managers now receive 120 hours of classroom instruction and must pass a certification exam. Many Kansas IT vendors have taken the training as well, added Heiman.

"This helps keep everyone on the same page. We have a common language and common reporting standards," he said.

Concurrent with overhauling its technology governance, Kansas has taken a more businesslike approach to IT systems.

"We want IT to contribute to the revenue stream of government. That raises the bar because now youre standing the test of the market," explained Heiman. "That drives not only a lot of our architecture, but also the selection of our projects. Were taking projects that have a fairly high cost/benefit payout -- ROI [return on investment] where the

break-even point occurs at 12-18 months."

Practical Innovation

Like Kansas, Alaska significantly improved its Digital State position. After placing ninth in the 1998 survey, the state rose to third in this years ranking based on the strength of numerous practical e-government offerings.

For instance, Alaska recently unveiled an application that provides a single, online source for all government public notices. The system offers a convenient source for information on meetings, regulatory hearings, attorney general opinions, competitive solicitations and other information.

"Its one-stop shopping for all government public notices," said Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer. "That may not sound very sexy, but a lot of the world needs those notices and its very frustrating for individuals and organizations when they cant find that information."

Alaska -- with its sparse population spread over a territory the size of California, Texas and Montana combined -- has a powerful incentive to implement e-government services. Indeed, many of its communities are reachable only by boat or light aircraft, said Ulmer.

Therefore, online applications -- like Alaskas recently installed small business and occupational licensing systems -- offer citizens a huge increase in convenience. "In some states, you can just drive to your local government office and get your work done," said Ulmer. "We have literally hundreds of villages that are not connected by roads. So moving these kinds of transactions, as simple as they may be, to the Web helps erase distance as a barrier to doing business with the government."

Alaskas commitment to Web-based services shows in its second-place finish in Digital States e-commerce category, which measured progress in developing online permitting and licensing systems. Furthermore, the state earned top-10 rankings in categories covering the movement of tax transactions and voter information to the Internet.

Alaskas Telecommunications and Information Technology Council (TIC) played a central role in the states technology success, said Ulmer, who chairs the 20-member council. She credits the TIC -- comprising commissioners of all major state agencies and representatives from higher education and the state Legislature -- with fostering IT innovation and coordination across all sectors of Alaskas state government.

"This has created enterprise-wide thinking about telecommunications and information technology. You dont have a whole bunch of colliding and competing systems," said Ulmer. "[The TIC] allows us to cross-pollinate

good ideas. And it allows us to set standards and have those standards actually enforced."

Rags to Riches

Fourth-ranked Illinois qualifies as this years most-improved state after finishing near the bottom of the 1998 Digital State survey. Chief Technology Officer Mary Barber Reynolds attributed the turnaround to executive leadership, saying Gov. George Ryans unwavering commitment to e-government allowed her to push an agenda that calls for IT

innovation among state agencies.

The high-level technology mandate spurred Illinois to top-10 finishes in key Digital State categories such as electronic commerce, taxation/revenue, and digital democracy. Moreover, the state

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  | 

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.