PHILADELPHIA-- Washington is the epitome of a digital state -- the best when it comes to using digital technologies to improve government operations. That's according to a 50-state study released by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) and supported by IBM's Institute for Electronic Government.

PFF President Jeffrey Eisenach presented the first "Digital State" award in August to a delegation of Washington state legislators in Philadelphia attending the National Conference of State Legislators, including Reps. Dave Quall (D-40th District) and Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36th District).

In presenting the award, Eisenach said "information technology can make government more effective, competitive and user-friendly. In fact, digital infrastructure is as much a key to growth in the Digital Age as railroads and roadways were to the Industrial Age."

Behind Washington, Wisconsin was ranked second, followed by Florida, Oregon, Maryland, Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Missouri and Michigan. Washington was also ranked among the top 10 in six other categories and received a "best practices" certificate for ranking highest in the law enforcement and courts category.

"An important part of Washington's technology agenda focuses on finding resourceful ways to provide our citizens with unprecedented access to government information and services," said Steve Kolodney, the state's Department of Information Services director. "This honor shows we clearly are on the right track."

PFF noted several factors contributing to Washington's high ranking. For one, the state provides access through the Internet to complete statutes and proposed legislation along with amendments, tracking and voting. Citizens are also able to send e-mail to most legislators and to the governor via hot-linked e-mail addresses. Comments on proposed legislation can also be sent via e-mail to the sponsoring representative.

In the areas of law enforcement and the courts, Washington scored high with its integrated criminal information management system and the number of counties that have law enforcement officers actively using computers for digital communications. The state also places court opinions on its Web site, and has many police officers' e-mail addresses linked on the Web.

Transforming the Way We Do Business

PFF conducted the Digital State survey to study the extent to which states are using technology in a number of key areas, including digital democracy, higher education, elementary and secondary education, business regulation, law enforcement and the courts, revenue and taxation, and social services. For each of those seven areas, PFF developed a list of specific applications, and, for each application, established a set of benchmark criteria, ranked on a simple scale of zero to three.

Foundation researchers spent six months studying how states put digital technologies to work in government. They gathered data off the Internet, from direct contacts with state officials, and from secondary sources. PFF also summarized their findings and sent them to all 50 governors to provide an opportunity for them to correct or add to their data. The goal was to analyze overall progress by the states, identify major opportunities for digital technology implementation, identify and assess best practices, and identify strengths and weaknesses in each state's efforts.

PFF said the central finding of their research was that the Internet and other digital technologies are transforming the way in which individuals can interact with the state, and vice versa. PFF believes this is allowing individuals to be more empowered, more knowledgeable of and more involved in the affairs of their government. The foundation plans to update the study annually.

Copies of the Digital State report can be obtained from The Progress & Freedom Foundation, 1301 K Street, NW, Suite 550 East, Washington, D.C. 20005. Phone: 202/289-8928. E-mail: .

Overall State

by State Results,

A Digital Report Card