The following interview was conducted by GT Features Editor, Brian Miller.
GT: Since your inauguration in early 1995, you've been creating e-mail connections across state government. Tell us about it.
King: When we came into office in January, there was pretty much zero e-mail in state government. The capability wasn't there. I wanted to have connections within the governor's office and to all the commissioners by June, and into the rest of state government by the end of year, if possible.
So we've gone from a standing start to 3,000 to 4,000 people on the system, including all the commissioners and the governor's office. I think they tracked about a 20 percent drop in paper transactions within the government agencies since the beginning of 1995.
GT: How has this affected the way the governor's office works?
King: It's just a matter of making people more productive. For example, I communicate with my commissioners quite often. Rather than call them and not know if they are going to be there at that time, I can just sit down and bang out a couple of sentences, send it off, and I'll have the answer within a matter of minutes if they are around, or in hours if they are not.
GT: How does this affect governing and the decision-making process that you and the commissioners go through?
King: Government generally is faced with the same imperatives to increase productivity that the private sector has been through in the last 10 years. Government is sort of the last to get it.
If we were a company, the analogy would be that we have falling revenues and fiercer competition. If you are a company and you're in that situation, there's only one way to go and that's improve productivity.
Ever since the invention of the hammer, technology is the way to increase the productivity of an individual. That's the way I see technology within our state.
E-mail is just the tip of the iceberg. Analysis software, spreadsheets, groupware where we can work on projects jointly -- all of those are there to facilitate decision making and policy formation. Every day I probably deal with between 30 to 50 pieces of e-mail and I can deal with it very efficiently and very quickly -- much more so than with traditional paper mail.
GT: How does e-mail help in the decision-making process? By sharing information among the commissioners?
King: Exactly. You can share the information faster and more broadly. Everyone can see the memo and then I can say 'what do you think about this?' And I can get collective lists in a hurry, often without having to get everyone in the same room.
It's sort of mundane, but one of the problems we found coming into state government was a multiplicity of systems where everybody had a different architecture, everyone had different applications. There was no connectivity, there was no networking, and no cross-platform sharing -- that was a disaster.
We've really put a lot of emphasis on developing a standard suite of office applications across state government, a standard platform to ensure compatibility.
Just this week we arranged with a local main bank for instant financing. State employees who want to buy a computer for their own use or for their family can buy it and pay for it by payroll deduction. We've negotiated a volume discount with the bank so that they are getting 6.5 percent interest on what amounts to a consumer loan.
The theory is that the more our employees become computer literate, the better. And at the same time it's a benefit for them and their families.
GT: How does technology assist a governor in his or her job?
King: I couldn't imagine doing without it. Being governor is an