in 1998 by one of the largest margins of victory in Maine's history, and he was one of only two independent governors in the country.

King spearheaded the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative (MLTI), an innovative program that provided laptop computers to approximately 17,000 students in 239 middle schools throughout the state.

"If we can develop the most digitally literate society on earth, the jobs and the prosperity and the opportunities and the options will follow," King said. "I have no doubt of that."

Each school has a wireless network in place for both students and teachers to use. They connect to the Internet through the Maine School and Library Network at near-T1 speeds.

MLTI started in fall 2002, and by fall 2003, both seventh-graders and eighth-graders will receive laptops -- meaning that nearly 33,000 students and 3,000 teachers will use computers from the program.

King said MLTI is generating positive results. Disciplinary problems dropped 75 percent and absenteeism declined by two-thirds within three months of the start of the first MLTI pilot project in spring 2002. He added that students in the program developed a much more positive attitude about their schools and teachers.

Under King's administration, Maine also worked closely with local governments to develop intergovernmental applications. In 2000, the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles, together with local governments, created the Rapid Renewal Application, which allowed motorists to renew their motor vehicle registration online through the Office of the Secretary of State. Residents could then conduct transactions with state and local government through one Web site.

Under the arrangement, InforME, which manages Maine's state Web site, served as an application service provider for local governments by hosting the Rapid Renewal Application on its servers.

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Edtior

Chris O'Brien

Chief Information Officer


Chris O'Brien was appointed CIO of Chicago in April 2000 and is commissioner of the Department of Business and Information Services (BIS), having joined Chicago in 1998 as the managing deputy CIO in charge of strategic planning.

O'Brien has been part of many of Chicago's IT initiatives. He said he's most proud of two notable achievements: The city's pioneering rollout of a 311 system in 1999, and the development of CivicNet, a public-private partnership to install the most extensive fiber-optic infrastructure in the nation and bring high-speed communications to every neighborhood in the city.

The blueprint for CivicNet is combining communications spending for all major city agencies into a single contract that would be offered to telecoms in exchange for installing fiber-optic cable throughout the city.

To O'Brien, the biggest technological hurdle facing CIOs and government is the proliferation of technology tools now available.

"The big challenge CIOs have is not picking the right tools, but bringing them to market, bringing them to the front line," he said. "Being able to implement tools that are going to add value to your citizens in a cost-effective and timely way is even more important now because there are so many different directions you can go."

Despite that challenge and the many others facing government in today's climate, O'Brien said working in the public sector is much more rewarding than in the private sector.

"Companies don't do what we do; the city of Chicago does everything, and we're not able to pick and choose what markets we want to be in," he said. "You walk across the street and you talk to anybody, your friends or people you don't even know, and you know that in some way they've benefited from what you've been doing."

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Michael Armstrong

Chief Information Officer

Des Moines, Iowa

The Midwest might not be the first place