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.
"Meeting citizens' expectations in the areas of privacy and security, while ensuring the continuity of operations under any circumstances. The need to protect the individual privacy of our citizens must be recognized and at the same time balanced against the need to provide the proper information to organizations, law enforcement and government charged with protecting citizens. Recent events demonstrate that our technology infrastructure is a national asset and, consequently, has become a target to affect our economy, financial operations and everyday life. Today more than ever, our citizens have a high expectation that we will deploy secure information technology systems on time, on budget and in response to business needs."
Executive Director, National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics
Cooper heads the non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the criminal justice system through the application of information and identification technology. SEARCH's primary objective is to identify and help solve information management problems experienced by state, local and federal governments.
Technology challenge: "The events of September 11 have filled 2002 with challenges associated with preventing terrorist activity. This not only includes identifying and tracking terrorists but eliminating others from consideration of being a terrorist. In an attempt to address this, initiatives calling for the use of smart cards and biometrics and the creation of watch lists, [as well as] tracking systems are replete in proposals before Congress and federal executive branch agencies. How the criminal justice component of "digital government" responds to those initiatives is certainly one of the biggest challenges for 2002."
Director, North Carolina Division of Information Resource Management
As the director of the Division of Information Resource Management within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Cox is responsible for business and client record-keeping needs. Cox's division also provides technical services to the department and assures access to records for more than 14,000 local computer workstations across the state.
Technology challenge: "There are at least three concerns that I have in moving to e-government. Two are infrastructure related. (1) The government agencies that are responsible for the delivery of the e-services have limited resources and skill sets, and (2) The infrastructure at the local level limits the ability of citizens to participate. The last concern is the ability to identify users and secure private/confidential information of the citizens."
Best known for improving the Chicago Public Schools, Daley also has developed innovative programs to improve city neighborhoods, reduce crime through community policing, remove illegal guns from the streets, build new libraries, beautify the city and attract high-technology industry.
Technology challenge: "The biggest challenge for digital government will be making sure it delivers direct and tangible benefits to everyone. We in government have to look at things from the citizen's perspective, rather than government's own internal perspective. In difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that government delivers measurable results for its constituents in the form of better and more accessible services and greater efficiency and openness. Digital government also can be used to spur economic development. We also have to be careful that certain groups -- the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the non-English speaking -- don't get left behind as we rush to permeate the government with technology."
Hon. Hunt Downer
State Representative, Louisiana
Rep. Hunt Downer became a catalyst for digital democracy when he put the state assembly online in 1997. It was Downer's vision that led to the historic assembly chambers being retrofit to implement new technology and bring all 105 members into the Information Age. Downer has become increasingly involved in national security issues and IT implementations.
Technology challenge: "Once digital government is in place, it faces the
challenge of keeping it current in technology, software and hardware. That challenge is compounded by the slowness with which government moves because of the constraints in purchasing, and is further compounded by the constraints of the availability of revenue for funding. I believe that a successful balance among these challenges is achievable, depending upon the dedication and commitment of the governmental entity and its leadership in bringing government to the people."
Senior Director, Educational Tech Division, Texas Education Agency
Givens has been instrumental in successful efforts to bring technology to Texas' 1,044 districts and 6,465 schools and in developing the Texas Education Network, which serves as an Internet provider for schools and trains teachers in helping them integrate technology into the classroom and evaluating instructional resources.
Technology challenge: "The biggest challenge to digital government is twofold: awareness and access. There are such rich digital resources and services available - but unless the various customers are fully aware of these resources and services and have access to them, the benefits will not be fully realized. The most frequent response I get when sharing news about nearly any digital resource or service is 'I didn't know that!' Once people realize what is available, their enthusiasm begins to emerge until they then think about access. The how, when, where, and how much does it cost questions may become the biggest challenges depending on the number and type of customers being addressed. Communication is the key to overcoming these challenges, and there are so many messages being delivered, it is difficult for many to sort out what they really need to know to move forward in this digital age. Challenges are just opportunities in disguise so as we identify each one, we must continue to take the steps necessary to move forward."
City Manager, La Grange, Ga.
La Grange's initiative to link all of its citizens to the Internet via the local cable television system won nationwide acclaim. The city received Government Technology's Leadership Award in 2000 and was named Intelligent City of the Year by the World Teleport Association.
Technology challenge: "I see the biggest challenge as getting government services used online by all members of a community. Proficiency in the use of technology is becoming increasingly important as a life skill. Those who don't develop that skill are in danger of being left behind economically and socially. Our challenge is to ensure appropriate infrastructure deployment and access, develop compelling content that is relevant to the daily lives of our citizens, and promote the use of technology in all of our community institutions."
Chief Information Technology Officer, Kansas
Heiman retired last month, leaving a legacy of statewide IT architectures and standards. His efforts resulted in a first-place finish for Kansas in the 2001 Digital State survey.
Technology challenge: "Today we have taken a defensive strategy for safeguarding our critical infrastructure. This year, IT will be increasingly challenged to augment defensive strategies with offensive tactics. These tactics will require changes to state IT governance structures as we adopt enterprise security councils, security analysis centers to parse intrusions, reverse engineering of security hacks and aggressive tracking of hacks back to their sources. Year 2002 will also bring a new understanding on how states can best balance open records, privacy and security."
Secretary, Department of Economic Development, Louisiana
Hutchinson helps lead an effort to reinvent and diversify Louisiana's economy based on bold technology and education initiatives.
Technology challenge: "There are three significant components necessary in order to create a successful digital government. The first component is policy. The second is infrastructure. The third is education. By developing policy that
creates a digital government mindset, building the infrastructure to address the needs of today and tomorrow, and educating our citizens in order for them to take full advantage of technology opportunities, we can prepare for the future. And we must begin now, in 2002. Ultimately, connecting citizens today will ensure tomorrow's future."
County Commissioner, Minnesota's Hennepin County
A past president of the National Association of Counties (NACo), Johnson has the distinction of being one of the few elected county officials ever to become a National Academy for Public Administration Fellow. He has been invited to testify before Congress more often and on more issues than any elected county official in history.
Technology challenge: "The opportunity is that the tragic events of Sept. 11 will focus attention and funding on public safety and security issues -- and that means that law enforcement, corrections and related areas will find elected officials more amenable to funding research and implementation of biometric identification, GIS crime analysis, interoperability of databases, etc. That's good and overdue. The challenge is that the concern about public safety and security may reduce attention to other important functions of local government that have digital applications -- licensing and permitting, wireless communication, CAD for transportation, telecommuting, distance learning, and everything else where we can improve service and keep taxes down."
Professor, University of Washington
Lazowska is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. During his tenure, Lazowska has conducted key research on digital libraries software and has worked to forward the importance of IT research on a national level.
Technology challenge: "I think the big issue right now is to define and promulgate a shared architecture for electronic government -- Internet applications and the back office. This is a technical challenge, and also a management challenge. Going beyond electronic government, the greatest long-term challenge is to figure out how to utilize information technology to actually improve teaching and learning. In K-12, we are spending enormous amounts on technology, but we are achieving very little in terms of demonstrable improvements in student outcomes. There is the clear potential to transform learning by coupling advances in educational technology with advances in the learning sciences. We've got to buckle down as a nation and figure out how to achieve this potential."
Michael O. Leavitt is only the second governor in Utah history to be reelected to a third term. During his tenure, Leavitt has carried out a vision of improvement and innovation while positioning Utah for success in a new millennium. Under Leavitt, Utah has been named the "best-managed state" in America, the "best place to locate a business" and host of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Technology challenge: "Economic competitiveness in the 21st century requires interaction with government that is efficient and seamless. The biggest challenge we face as we move government online is the potential for a loss of momentum as the economy slows and state revenues decrease. We must realize that the investment in more efficient, better government is even more important now. As we invest in e-government, we not only bring core government services to citizens in a more convenient format, we also change the way that government agencies think about their business processes and, as a consequence, make government more efficient and responsive. We must move ahead and continue to find innovative ways to remove the friction from interacting with government."
Associate Director, Illinois Department of Revenue
Marsh is a recognized public-sector visionary strategic thinker, evangelist and change agent with 20-plus years of hands-on experience with demonstrated success in change-management within a risk-adverse environment. While with the DOR, Marsh developed a convenience-fee
concept for electronic payment of government services and developed a 24 x 7 voice response system for the purchase of Illinois Secretary of State services, including vehicle registration renewal.
Technology challenge: "Creating and sustaining the value proposition for collaboration within and between all levels of government. Shrinking IT budgets coupled with the critical need for secure, cross-jurisdictional communication and information sharing dictate a "new economy" government mindset in which turf and power are supplanted by sharing and integration. The events of 9/11 accelerated the transformation process, but maintaining the momentum and rewarding stakeholder buy-in are essential for success. CIOs and IT leadership throughout government are being called upon to create the environment for this change, and we must respond positively to the challenge."
CIO, Fairfax County, Va.
Under Molchany's watch, Fairfax County has become a national model for the implementation of digital government.
"Meeting customer expectations in a more constrained budget environment. Governments will need to determine how to invest wisely in IT, and this investment really needs to be centered on what the customer wants. To enable a strong digital environment, governments will also need to invest in the right infrastructure to maintain a strong foundation for their digital government vision. Reducing investment in IT drastically because of budget constraints would be the wrong move in 2002. Not only can IT be used to meet the expectations of a government's customers, it can also be used to stretch the resources that provide service, especially in an economic downturn."
Chief, Computer Services Bureau, Kansas Department of Transportation
Nelson led the development of KDOT's award-winning construction management and document management systems.
Technology challenge: "To make it easier to do business with government. We do this by initiating broad-based education efforts targeting our managers and Web developers to help them understand public needs. In state government, it is important to maintain partnerships among the agencies in order to provide a coherent user experience to our customers seeking services. Robust and secure systems that are easy to access are essential. Currently, our concentration is in deploying data warehousing, records and workflow systems, GIS systems, a comprehensive Web portal, and very secure telecommunications. In all of these areas, maintaining a well-trained and highly motivated staff is critical."
Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal, Third District
Nicholson is a strong promoter of governmental cooperation between branches and effective use of technology in criminal and civil justice. He was elevated to the Court of Appeal by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1990.
Technology challenge: "Human resources, rather than technical ones, impede efforts to identify, acquire and utilize just the right technologies, whether in a single home or the largest government. Only with effective leadership and productive teamwork can we realize the potential of technology as a tool to make society better. As it has always been, effective leadership is the biggest challenge for digital government in 2002. The crucial issue affecting [the] use of technology in government is the effectiveness of leadership and the consequent collaboration and integration of efforts. The sophistication of technology far exceeds our ability to utilize it. Through inspired leadership, however, we can take advantage of technology successfully to provide effective government."
Chief Information Officer, Texas
Purcell has been a tireless advocate for electronic government and a familiar presence at major IT events throughout the nation. During her tenure, Texas empowered the CIO's office to create enterprise-wide systems and performed one of the nation's first security audits.
"Events of Sept. 11 underscore the role of government as protector and restorer of the American way of life. As information technology systems underlie every
function of government, public servants must assure that these systems are robust, redundant and continuously available. Financial crises in many states require that digital government solutions contribute to assurance, cost effectiveness or strategic goals."
Chief of Technology, Maryland
Major Riddick is a high-profile advocate for the use of information technology to tackle social and economic challenges. He was a key mover of Gov. Glendening's aggressive IT agenda from digital signature legislation to network development. Riddick's work in this arena has been recognized by many business and education organizations.
Technology challenge: "To ensure that applications and systems are secure from outside threat. Governments will have to demonstrate careful review and great restraint when balancing constitutional protections and monitoring of citizens' activities online. Given the fact that governments must now protect their systems by developing redundant backups, strict policies and backup plans, it must not be forgotten that we are here to offer service and value-added to the citizen base. In the wake of Sept. 11, it will be more challenging than ever to continue in our quest to offer citizen services online and protect our critical systems."
Chief Information Officer, Tucson, Ariz.
Sander's belief that technology should be a foundation for innovation has resulted in innovating projects such as a redesigned city Web portal and broad-ranging CRM and GIS initiatives.
Technology challenge: "We are still faced with a need to improve the process of governance at all levels. However, the tragedies and fiscal downturn of 2001 require that we focus our efforts away from mere transactional convenience and concentrate on supporting better decision-making by elected and appointed officials. One definition of leadership is 'an un-anxious presence.' If our leaders are to express that kind of leadership in 2002, they must understand the challenges they face and have the information they need from both traditional and non-traditional sources to make good decisions."
Chairman, Utah Electronic Commerce Council
Sherwood has served state government for 20 years, and currently serves as a liaison to 14 state agencies, reviewing and making recommendations with regard to agency IT plans, funding proposals and overall IT strategic direction.
Technology challenge: "If government is ultimately to save money, we must look at a number of creative ways to cut e-government deployment costs. We must keep credit card fees to a minimum and offer additional alternatives, such as debit or ACH e-payment services. We must buy and build enterprise infrastructure that supports full end-to-end transactions, including electronic signatures. Otherwise we continue to exit the off-ramp and go back to paper. We must look carefully at, and purchase where appropriate, component-based products, such as [the] portal, personalization, content management, work flow and electronic forms packages."
Jabari Simama, Ph.D.
Senior Public Technology Advisor, Atlanta
Jabari Simama has been a national symbol for the effort to bridge the digital divide. In his post with Atlanta, he was the guiding force behind the development of cyber centers in the city's underserved neighborhoods. The program has trained more than 7,000 students and elder citizens to use technology to improve their lives.
Technology challenge: "Keeping the momentum of the e-government movement going despite the economic downturn. Many governments are facing budget cuts and other belt-tightening measures. It will be a challenge to continue to fund and use governments' digital infrastructure to deliver services, information and content to citizens, particularly those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide. This entails funding community technology centers that focus on workforce skills, education and community development. Community technology centers also serve as access points for citizens who don't have computers and Internet service in the home, enabling them to participate in digital government on an
Lt. Governor, Alaska
Ulmer started her career in Alaska politics and government almost as soon as she arrived in Alaska in 1973. Lately, Ulmer has been pushing wireless technology to improve communications in rural parts of the state.
Technology challenge: "Maintaining progress in digital government in the face of growing economic pressures and increased security needs. The nation's recession and state budget deficits will create pressure to reduce financial and human resources devoted to investment and innovation in technology. Although the application of technology often increases efficiency and customer satisfaction, it can't happen without the necessary commitment of personnel and IT hardware and software."
Chief Information Officer, Kentucky
Aldona Valicenti is a familiar presence wherever digital government is discussed. Over the past year, her tenure as president of NASCIO has raised the organization to new levels. Her accomplishments in Kentucky have garnered honors and attention from jurisdictions throughout the nation.
Technology challenge: "Funding of digital government and selecting services to deploy in a difficult budget cycle will be at the top of the list. Security of the infrastructure is equally critical and has now taken center stage, but there is a strong commitment to safeguard the privacy of our citizens. Cultural change and business redesign will continue as top issues. Possibly the most important challenge is for government to assess the skills of its employees to be able to support this new way of doing business. The bottom line is that 2002 may turn out to be the year that we take the opportunity to integrate all of the facets of digital government."