Q: Senator Polanco, SB 2038, on technological infrastructure, attributes much of California's economic recovery to activity related to advanced technology. How did you come to that conclusion?
A: There are several reports. One is a 1995 report from the Governor's Council on Information Technology, Getting Results. There's ample evidence that, if you're going to be competitive, you're going to have to engage heavily ... in the area of telecommunications. Others are [from] the California Research Bureau -- New Challenges to California State Government's Economic Development Engine and two or three others.
Q: Your bill talks about "smart communities" using technology to transform a region with cooperation among government, industry, educators and citizens. How do community leaders begin building such a smart community? Are there good models of successful smart communities?
A: There is a report, Toward a Smart California, [issued] in December 1997 by the International Center for Communications at San Diego State University.
There are several innovative models that have demonstrated successful "smart communities." In my town, there is the Blue Line Televillage Demonstration Project. The Southern California Association of Governments is doing an program aimed at top executives to encourage use of telecommuting. The Net at 2 Rivers in Sacramento addresses literacy and community issues through the Internet. And the Davis Community Network -- supported by the California Department of Transportation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the University of California at Davis, the city of Davis, the county of Yolo, the Davis Joint Unified School District, Sun Microsystems, Qualcomm and others -- is designed to support telework, telelearning, teleshopping, telemedicine, telebanking and electronic democracy.
Q: Your bill would establish an "Interagency Commission on Technological Infrastructure for the 21st Century," an "Office of Regional Telecommunications and Information Policy" and a "21st Century Smart Communities Fund." What functions would those bodies serve?
A: I would like to see them taking the lead in developing smart communities. I think that we've got to ... give them the challenge to develop the strategies and give leadership to smart communities.
Technology and Elected Officials
Q:How well do you think elected officials -- both local and state -- really understand technology and its potential?
A: I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I think there's still a lot of ignorance, and it's still an abstract situation for many. Even for myself, everything's changing. If you're an infant learning how to walk and [things are] constantly changing, it is a real challenge. And with that comes a lot of fear of the unknown. People don't really get it yet, but once they catch it, boy, it lights a fire. It's very, very beneficial, very important.
Q: Just a few years ago, California's legislative data was not available on the Internet. Today, citizens can get on the Internet and pull up all the legislation that you or any other legislator has sponsored, and they can subscribe to be automatically notified of legislation updates via e-mail.
A: It's overnight. It's phenomenal -- all at the fingertips.
Q: What role do you think government should have when disadvantaged and underserved citizens are left out of this advanced technology?
A: I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that we don't create pockets that disengage. We have to make sure that every child has the opportunity to learn and master it. I view this as, really, an equivalent to a language that has to be mastered.
I authored legislation on universal service for telephone service. ... That notion and that concept ought to apply.
We're getting closer now. TVs now can be used [to access the Internet], if you buy the unit for 300-400 dollars. Everyone has a TV. As time goes on, that price is going to go down, and, eventually, it will be