Following the Leaders

Recognizing the best in technological innovation and development.

by / September 26, 2002
When is a contest more than a contest? The answer, it seems clear, is when everyone gains as a result of singling out and honoring the best in a given sphere. How can anyone "lose," for instance, when we take the best examples of technology serving the citizen and seek to learn something from those examples?

That, to a large extent, has always been the spirit behind Government Technology's yearly Best of the Web competition and the Center for Digital Government's annual Best of Breed survey. The intent is not simply to bestow a little recognition on people who have worked hard to bring a vision to fruition - not to suggest that such recognition isn't well deserved. But our prime motive in all this is to highlight examples of technological innovation and development so we all can learn from them.

Taken together, these award programs review a broad range of government IT projects, and the winners resulting from those reviews truly represent the best in public-sector technology applications. Nearly 300 state and local jurisdictions entered this year's Best of the Web contest, while the Best of Breed program drew upon more than 1,500 IT projects highlighted by the Center for Digital Government's Digital State awards.

A complete list of the Best of Breed winners is presented here, but space restrictions dictate that only some of them receive extended coverage on the following pages. In selecting which to include, our criteria boiled down to editorial prerogative. We selected those stories that we think our readership will find most interesting and informative.

Just because we don't cover a program in this supplement does not mean that it is not worthy of inclusion. It is in no way a slight on other winners. All we try to do here is present a spectrum of technological innovations and developments that we think our varied readership might find of special interest for one reason or another.

Looking at all the winners - and for that matter the large number of entrants - the scope of achievements in 2001 were really quite wide-ranging and pervasive. Despite looming budget cuts, a faltering economy and the massive shift of attention to security matters as the realities of international terrorism tragically hit home, people in public service continued to push forward in their efforts to make government better. That in itself is a tribute to the greatness of American democracy.

There is little doubt that the dedication of the public servants who strive to make digital government a reality is increasingly appreciated by the citizens they serve. As Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, pointed out concerning the Best of Breed survey, "Time and time again, government officials shared stories of surprise and satisfaction when they built systems or implemented programs and people readily used them without hesitance. A common response to the question, `What surprised you about this project?' was, `I couldn't believe how quickly everyone used it.' That is a testament for the leaders and staff who worked hard to bring these innovative systems to fruition."

Looking at the developments of 2001 as a whole, it is clear that where once technological innovations in government stood out as something unique or special, today innovation is found almost everywhere. A great many good and notable things are being done, far more than can be highlighted in a single supplement such as this.

If there is anything one can take away from such an overview, it is a certainty that the promise of digital government is starting to be realized. There may still be a long way to go, but there shouldn't be any doubt that we will get there. And the result will be better government for one and all.
Blake Harris Editor
Platforms & Programs