Notes From the Field

Notes From the Field

by / October 31, 1997

"We are not forecasting the future, we are revealing today's facts."

-- John Naisbitt, featured speaker at the Western Region Government Technology Conference in 1987.

Editor in Chief

Ten years ago this month, in November 1987, we published the first issue of Government Technology. In a nation dominated by federal programs, concerns and controls, ours was the first magazine devoted to information technology in state and local government. It was several years before the computer and telecommunications industries -- as well as many in the public sector itself -- recognized the critical role digital technology would play in the business of running modern state and local governments.

We launched Government Technology not to be a "computer magazine" for state and local agencies, but to focus on the business of the public sector -- human services, public safety, transportation, etc. -- and to chronicle for government executives the growing application of information systems to these specific industry demands.

Our readers, then as now, are not only the information technology professionals, but also agency leaders charged with managing business objectives. These executives traditionally have had little or no contact with information systems, yet increasingly they must navigate technology management issues if they are to meet the demands of running modern government operations.

Around this mission, Government Technology pioneered an editorial focus on "case studies" in specific applications like courts, welfare, law enforcement and education. One key result of our unique approach is that Government Technology has introduced tens of thousands of government leaders to the increasingly vital world of digital technology in a context relevant to their business needs.

This is critical, as each year state and local agencies spend an increasing amount on information systems. In 1997 alone technology spending by state and local agencies will total over $38 billion. In the last decade Government Technology has written more about how information technology is harnessed by state and local government than any other source. Feedback from readers has consistently told us that our "case studies" have been invaluable in fostering the sharing of solutions, transferring of technology and avoiding "reinventing the wheel" in thousands of state and local jurisdictions here in the United States and around the world.

A more recent byproduct of this editorial focus is that Government Technology now maintains a large electronic archive of hundreds of application articles going back almost four years which are accessible free of charge over our web site at . Currently we are upgrading our search engine to refine the ability of readers to locate specific technologies, applications and jurisdictions.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of a high-quality team of writers and editors under the direction of our editor Wayne Hanson.

As the latest recognition of these efforts, Government Technology just received Folio's 1997 Editorial Excellence award as the leading publication in the government arena.

What's Next

I think the "big story" still emerging in this field has less to do with how government uses technology and much more to do with how the digital revolution is changing the very nature and practice of governance itself. Clearly, technologies as powerful as those embraced in the digital revolution cannot be unleashed without a significant impact on the world and its institutions, particularly its largest -- government.

Information technology -- and the global economy it has fostered -- has far outstripped the current reach of public policy. In addition to the increasing application of technology to education, welfare and public safety, government leaders must soon deal with critical policy issues in areas such as digital signatures, year 2000 conversion, electronic commerce, intellectual property, virtual universities, as well as privacy, access to data, and many other issues related to
the global Internet.

This uncharted territory is likely to engage all of us for years to come. Those of you who know us realize that we've never been satisfied with just writing about technology in government. It has been our aim to be in the arena with you -- as partner, providing a forum and a catalyst to help you shape the future of digital governance.

September's Special Edition -- outlining visions of governance for the next century -- is a reflection of our interest and concern, as are more than a dozen Government Technology conferences and events produced throughout the United States. in 1997. These include three Government Technology Conferences, our Executive Leadership Forums, the International Summit on Service to the Citizen, and our Cities of The Future Conference to be held in Los Angeles next month.

When launching Government Technology back in 1987, several colleagues couldn't understand why I would want to start a publication about what they thought were two of the dullest subjects around -- technology and government. Contrary to their expectations, this field has been very dynamic and grows more so each year.

To tell you the truth, I think we're just getting started.

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