Information technology in government began less than a decade ago, riding on the hot wind of fired-up dot-coms and clever applications that sometimes held more promise than productivity. Over the years, government IT leaders sorted out the policies, politics and technologies that best served governments' goals; unsuccessful models, along with countless IT start-ups, disappeared from the scene.
Led by a handful of states, public-sector leaders began to focus on the essential elements of electronic government. Armed with best practices and working models, they moved on to advocate for infrastructure development, enterprise-wide systems, interagency collaboration and interoperable systems, which became particularly important following Sept. 11.
This evolution from the glitter of new technology to the grit of effective electronic government required a new kind of leadership -- men and women who possessed a vision of how technology could change the relationship of citizens to government. But these leaders needed to do more than advocate for an idea; they needed to be instruments of change who proved the value of information technology in the government marketplace.
Government Technology magazine and the Center for Digital Government have collaborated to select the inaugural "GT 25" -- people who have led the digital revolution in government throughout its infancy and early development. These distinguished individuals have dedicated years of service, achieved a level of national prominence and logged accomplishments in the technology arena. They have been selected from state and local governments, justice and law enforcement agencies and from the ranks of the nation's "thought leaders."
But just because they are leading the way doesn't mean the journey is over. We asked each of these individuals what their biggest challenge is in 2002.
Vice President, Progressive Policy Institute
Atkinson directed the Technology Reshaping of Metropolitan America, a report that examines the impact of the information technology revolution on America's urban areas. He is currently director of PPI's Technology & New Economy Project.
Technology challenge: "For governments to assert leadership to break down bureaucratic barriers that stand in the way of creating functionally oriented, citizen-centered government Web presences designed to give citizens a self-service government. Notwithstanding the considerable progress many governments have made in getting online, most governments' Web presences remain organized according to political and bureaucratic imperatives, not according to what makes most sense to citizens. Achieving citizen-centered digital government will require resources, political leadership and hard work. It will require a fundamentally different view of government -- one that puts the needs of citizens first."
State Treasurer, Ohio
In public service since 1977, Blackwell built a national reputation for advocating the use of information technology throughout government. As state treasurer, his implementation of an electronic system for the payment of Uniform Commercial Code filings cut processing time from 15 weeks to three days.
Technology challenge: "Developing and conducting online government transactions through an enterprise model, providing customers with one-click access to a wide variety of government services. For example, customers expect government to provide one-stop e-commerce centers where they can incorporate, apply for small business assistance and file and retrieve the necessary tax documentation. Many of these services are currently offered by government entities operating independently of each other. Our challenge is to coordinate these services across the board as one enterprise and offer the consumer seamless online information."
State Auditor, North Carolina
Ralph Campbell brought the state's Auditor's Office into the information age. He is chairman of the NC Information Resource Management Commission, which guides the utilization of technology in state government. He also serves in positions of responsibility on numerous state and national boards and commissions. His commitment to minority participation in government is a hallmark of his successful tenure.