and local governments are sometimes not as powerful as some of the companies with political action committees and workers and voters that work for those companies. So the state and local governments are not nearly as strong a lobby on some of these issues, although they do have allies.
I don't want to single out any particular group. But you get a group of manufacturing companies and they all recognize that they can sell a computer for $3,000 to a state and local government whereas it would cost $2,500 if it is cooperatively purchased. They look at selling several hundred of these, and begin counting dollars and cents. So that's how it works and why they get concerned about it.
GT: On information technology in government: what role does it play in government reform? What sorts of things do you think information technology can help?
Davis: Well, it can help in almost every area. In this knowledge-based age, the more information you have, the more intelligent decisions you can make. Getting realtime information in terms of the data available will allow people in government to make more intelligent decisions.
The Department of Defense has probably been ahead of the other agencies because of the demands on defense through time. That kind of capability is now spreading through civilian agencies and I think this will continue. This allows general data gathering, it will allow government to react and get information to citizens, who we're supposed to interact with.
In areas like welfare, instead of going to three or five different places for different benefits, you can do one-stop shopping and have all the information plugged in one area and share it with other areas. We're just beginning to move into some of these areas, and I think the potential is unlimited.
GT: Do your colleagues in Congress have this same understanding of what information technology can do?
Davis: I think a lot of it is generational. You'll find that with members who have been here for some period of time and have never employed these technologies in their previous jobs, it's harder for them to understand it.
Some of the new members understand it pretty well and the younger members seem to understand it a little bit better. Members who have been here a long time before a lot of the technology was developed and deployed have a harder time understanding its significance.
But we are making progress. We have an information technology caucus, and we're starting to share information among staff members. You find most of your members now have technology in their offices and can be e-mailed. It's slow, but it's moving.
I think the speaker has also been helpful in this. Speaker Gingrich understands the technology wave that has taken over the world, and he has tried to be proactive both in Congress and in terms of policies that will help foster the development of American technology. In a worldwide marketplace, this probably has the largest potential for economic growth in America.
GT: How can information technology affect the relationship between various layers of government, such as federal and state, or federal and local? What role does IT play in this?
Davis: Well, I think it can help in sharing information. You'll find that information technology is probably better employed and deployed at the federal level because it's so massive that you couldn't think of doing something without employing it. State governments are getting more sophisticated, but local governments in general still lag behind because of the sheer magnitude of the tasks they are assigned to do.
You couldn't possibly handle things like Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare without employing a very sophisticated technology simply because of the massiveness of the task. At the