Today, billboards, print media and the airwaves are full of ads from "dot com" companies offering a huge array of electronic services from home loans to airline tickets, all available anywhere, anytime on the Web. Few of these firms existed more than a year or two ago. Now, companies like Amazon.com, E*Trade.com and Yahoo.com dominate our market spaces and are grabbing a bigger slice of the economic pie. For example, 30 percent of this year's additions to the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans -- with a net worth of at least $625 million -- made their fortunes with Web-related businesses.

And there's much more to come. "The truly revolutionary impact of the Information Revolution is just beginning to be felt," wrote Peter Drucker in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly. "E-commerce is to the Information Revolution what the railroad was to the Industrial Revolution -- a totally new, totally unprecedented development. And, like the railroad 170 years ago, e-commerce is creating a new, distinct boom, rapidly changing the economy, society and politics."

An exaggeration? We'll soon see. But this "webification" of commerce has major implications for private companies, governments and the entire society. The nation's governors -- who had e-commerce and e-government on their minds at the annual National Governors' Association meeting this summer -- increasingly understand this. Speaking at that meeting, Utah Governor and NGA Chairman Michael Leavitt noted, "Over the next decade, forces of globalization will reshape governments more profoundly than the Industrial Revolution and the progressive era combined."

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"The new global economy presents great challenges and opportunities

for states. It has created a new frontier of federalism, a world in which

traditional political boundaries are less relevant. States can fight these changes and die, accept them and survive, or lead and prosper ..."

-- Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, chairman, National Governors' Association

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Increasingly, governors and legislative leaders recognize that information technology in government is no longer a simple matter of managing bits and bytes, but is at its core concerned with building a contemporary "Digital State" that fosters new opportunities in education, employment and quality of life for citizens.

Recognizing this, Government Technology -- in cooperation with the Washington, D.C.-based Progress & Freedom Foundation and our own Center for Digital Government -- has undertaken a major study to be conducted throughout this next year to benchmark and acknowledge the achievements of states in their progress toward a more digital government.

Our "Digital State Survey" will analyze achievements in the fields of electronic commerce, taxation and revenue, social services, law enforcement and the courts, digital democracy, management and administration, K-12 education and higher education.

Each quarter, we will publish an exclusive "Digital State" report highlighting state rankings in two of the eight categories. In October 2000, Government Technology, the Center for Digital Government and the Progress & Freedom Foundation will combine the

survey results of all eight categories and announce the winner of the Digital State Award.

The Digital State Report will launch next month in Government Technology with the top 15 states in electronic commerce and taxation/revenue. This is much more than a "winner-takes-all" contest. Its intent is to focus squarely on best practices and successes as states emerge from the dire necessity of Y2K conversion and once more face the opportunities of new technologies and new ideas for better governance.

Only one state will receive the Digital State Award, but we hope that all states will share in the benefits.

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