Leadership has been crucial to the development of digital government. Repeatedly, as we talk with the nation's CIOs in state and local government, they sing the mantra of "executive sponsorship." Without a champion ahead of the ranks, there is little advancement and almost no impetus for the kind of cultural change that digital government requires.

This is true throughout the system. CIOs often depend upon a governor or elected official, IT managers look to a strong CIO and employees follow the lead of good managers. Together, they make successful teams that promise to transform the citizen's relationship with government.

This issue of Government Technology honors 25 individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the development of digital government. Since it is the daily business of our magazine and our sister division, the Center for Digital Government, we have been fortunate to enjoy a unique perspective on the efforts of state and local jurisdictions to build their electronic futures. We have also been able to follow the work of individuals in distinct areas of digital government, from economic development to justice and education and beyond.

We know that for each of the individuals we have named, there are others who have attained significant accomplishments. We are certain our top 25 picks will be quick to point out that the hard work of e-government is really done by all the unnamed managers and staff who develop and support government's daily activities. This ability to share the credit and victories with others further distinguishes our slate of honorees who have advanced the cause of digital democracy.

These individuals -- and all of government -- work in the long shadow of a leader who, more than 250 years ago, created standards for democracy that continue to fuel our 21st century government. Clay Jenkinson, a noted scholar, has appeared at several Government Technology Conferences as President Thomas Jefferson. Our visit with Jenkinson in this issue highlights a rare kind of leadership that alters history and drives the future. What would Jefferson think about Internet speed, new legislation that threatens to invade our privacy and government's increasing role in American life?

There is general agreement that digital government is entering a new phase in its evolution. We have passed through the early years of infatuation with technology, made a few costly mistakes and enjoyed some high profile victories. We have learned that technology alone cannot and will not create digital government. The dawn of 2002 finds us still in love with what technology can do for us, but also aware that our relationship with it requires hard work, heavy lifting and continued leadership.

As we progress in this electronic evolution, today's leaders may share the observation of Thomas Jefferson, who declared; "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

Darby Patterson  |  Editor in Chief