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A Ridge to the 21 st Century

Gov. Tom Ridge guides his state toward a vibrant future.

by / November 30, 1999
Two hundred years ago, Pennsylvania led the American Revolution. One hundred years ago, Pennsylvania led the Industrial Revolution. Today, with Gov. Tom Ridge at the helm, Pennsylvania is looking to stake its claim as the leader in the technological revolution.

Since he was sworn in as Pennsylvania's 43rd governor on Jan. 17, 1995, Ridge has been working to deliver on the agenda he outlined as a candidate: making Pennsylvania a leader among states and a competitor among nations. That includes the use of
technology.

Ridge is busy cultivating high-tech jobs -- eliminating the state's tax on computer services; creating a new Research and Development tax credit; and convening an advisory group of technology entrepreneurs, called Tech 21. Pennsylvania now features the innovative high-tech partnership called the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, which has a goal of making southwestern Pennsylvania the new home of next-generation system-on-a-chip technology.



Q. You clearly are one of the nation's most tech-friendly governors. When did your interest in technology begin? Why is it
so important in your agenda as governor?

A. My interest in technology began while serving as a U.S. congressman and has been a top priority of my administration as governor.

It is clear to me that technology will be the driving economic force in the new millennium, and technology companies offer dramatic economic potential for Pennsylvania families in the 21st century. The technology field offers lucrative, family-sustaining jobs, and Pennsylvania offers the educational opportunities and quality of life high-tech companies and their employees are looking for.

When I became governor in 1995, I immediately set about changing the business climate and building a foundation to make Pennsylvania a global technology leader. Families and employers have saved nearly $7.4 billion through tax cuts, workers'-compensation reform, electric competition and reduced red tape. These savings have helped to create nearly 300,000 new jobs.

To prepare our workers for the new economy, we've enacted a comprehensive program to bring technology education to every age group and every classroom in Pennsylvania.

We begin even before our children go to school -- with a new approach to preschool learning called CyberStart. We are linking 4,000 child-care centers to the Internet -- to harness its educational power for preschoolers.

Through our nationally acclaimed Link to Learn program, we have invested over $160 million in community-network development, computers and technology training for teachers and students.

Our SciTech Scholars program tackles one of Pennsylvania's long-standing problems -- the migration of our young people to other states. It provides generous scholarships to Pennsylvania students studying technology and doing well. In return, they agree to work in Pennsylvania for up to three years after they graduate.

For those already in the workforce seeking the good technology jobs that don't always require a four-year degree, we have launched our GI Bill for the new economy. The GI Bill helps those Pennsylvanians who don't seek a four-year education, but do want more education, by providing scholarships for technical training and associate degrees.

These efforts, and others, are part of an overall strategy to grow our local technology companies, attract new ones to Pennsylvania and provide our workers with the tools and training they need to succeed in the high-tech economy.



Q. Obviously, technology is a major part of the state's plan for economic development. What is the state's plan, and what kind of guiding philosophy lies behind such a plan?

A. Our investments in technology are part of an overall strategy to make Pennsylvania a vigorous competitor for jobs. For too long, the state's tax and regulatory climate drove businesses to other states and forced our young people to look elsewhere to find good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.

Pennsylvania's business climate had to change, and I identified the technology industry as a key component of the state's economic recovery. From day one, we went on the offensive to create business opportunities for new and existing technology companies, and reshape Pennsylvania's image from a tired, rustbelt state to an economic powerhouse and global technology leader.

Our strategy has been shaped in large part by the recommendations of industry leaders and academics included in our Technology 21 report. The recommendations in that report regarding workforce development and need for seed capital have shaped our vision and our objectives.

We've also strived to lead by example. Our home page has become a conduit for state government business with the public. We've also committed $10.8 million to help Pennsylvania's public television stations convert from analog to digital technology. DTV offers tremendous opportunities to expand educational programming, conduct community outreach campaigns and share data transmissions.

And, in September, we unveiled an exciting new economic-development concept to make business-to-government contact "friction-free" in the new high-tech economy. Friction-free government is based on the simple notion that, in the new economy, initiatives that allow the private sector to move quickly are just as valuable -- perhaps even more valuable -- than all our low-interest loan programs combined.

In the new economy, speed-to- market often is the single most critical factor in determining which companies succeed and which companies fail. My goal is to make speed an integral component of our economic-development strategy. I believe governments that learn to use technology to facilitate speed -- those that become friction-free -- will see their states prosper. And those that hinder it will stagnate.

In a friction-free Pennsylvania, access to the on-ramps of the Internet economy will be plentiful and cost-effective. Our unmatched record of utility deregulation -- combined with the innovative use of public telecommunications procurement to stimulate private investment -- will ensure that access to high-speed applications is available cheaply and efficiently through a robust alternative of providers and technologies.

In addition to my e-government initiatives, we will continue to foster the use of e-commerce by state agencies and businesses within the commonwealth. Already, four online auctions have saved the commonwealth $4.3 million. The first online auction for a state construction project in September saved Pennsylvanians another $500,000.

We've seen the future, and we're doing everything we can to position Pennsylvania for success on the digital frontier.



Q. Policy-makers are often frustrated when trying to get public support for plans involving complex issues that the general public might not be fully informed about. Technology is not only complex, it's constantly changing. Is it difficult to get public support for spending millions on technology projects that may be complicated to explain, or is the faith in ever-improving technology such that the public embraces such initiatives?

A. Our technology initiatives are no different from any other. We have to do our homework before we invest taxpayer dollars, and there have to be measures in place to track our successes and make changes when technology projects aren't delivering as promised.

As governor, I have an obligation to show Pennsylvania taxpayers the value gained for the money that they have invested. We've done that.

Our partnership with Microsoft to standardize essential word-processing and e-mail software is expected to save $9.2 million over three years.

This has been a mammoth undertaking involving the migration of some 40,000 PCs. Already, we're seeing greater employee productivity and reduced software-training costs.



Q. Government was designed to move fairly and responsibly but not necessarily quickly. Constant change in IT issues and technologies is a challenge to most government agencies. How is this challenge overcome?

A. New technologies are revolutionizing the way the world does business. Like the private sector, I think government must rethink traditional practices and assumptions or risk becoming obstacles to opportunity.

In devising an economic-development strategy to create jobs in the lightning-fast electronic economy, government has to realize that sometimes the best thing it can do is get out of the way. We call this concept friction-free government.

As a powerful example of our friction-free government concept, we're using the Internet to make it easier to start a business in Pennsylvania than anywhere else. We launched a Web site where entrepreneurs can find all of the government forms they need to start a business -- saving time and reducing frustration.

In the near future, new business owners using this Web site will only have to complete a single form. The information contained in that form will be forwarded to the appropriate agencies. That's an example of government using technology to eliminate red tape.

To help job-seekers find good-paying jobs, and help employers get the people they need, we launched Team Pennsylvania CareerLink -- a first-in-the-nation "one-stop" system that brings 36 separate job-training and education programs once administered by five state agencies into one convenient Internet service center. Already, CareerLink has registered 24 million hits from job seekers and employers.

CareerLink takes the old, inflexible government model of "one size fits all" and replaces it with a flexible, convenient and customer-driven system of services.



Q. Speaking of jobs, reports have shown that among today's college students there is a decline in interest in high-tech jobs. Coupled with a boom in demand for employees, many jobs in the high-tech sector are going unfilled. Does this indicate some sort of a protest against the quality of life on the job in the high-tech sector from those willing to forego high wages for a more fulfilling career?

A. I'm not sure that the shortage of IT workers is a reaction against the technology workplace. We need to do a better job exposing young students to technology in the schools and the opportunities that exist in the high-tech job market.

When I tour the facilities of some of our leading high-tech employers, like SAP and Sony, I'm always impressed by the challenges available to their workers and the enthusiasm displayed by workers on the job. High-tech jobs not only offer very competitive wages, but they can be personally satisfying, too.

We've been partnering with high-tech companies like Microsoft and Dell to help meet the workforce needs of the 21st century. We need to provide more high-tech opportunities in our schools and a fast track to jobs following graduation.

Our SciTech Scholars program and GI Bill for the new economy are designed to prepare our students for the high-tech economy and stem the migration of Pennsylvania's young people to other states. Through these programs, students studying in the technology and science fields can get money to help pay for school. In return, for each year they get
a grant, they agree to work for a Pennsylvania employer.

Students exposed to technology are not intimidated by it; they embrace it. They recognize the technology industry is the growth field of the future.



Q.Link-to-Learn, Pennsylvania's technology-in-education initiative, has finished its third year. What have been some major lessons thus far?

A. We used part of Link-to-Learn's third-year investments to measure the impact of technology in the classroom and to identify trends, best practices, and lessons learned by schools. The results of this Educational Technology Impact Analysis can be found
on the Link-to-Learn Web site.

We have seen tremendous growth and progress made throughout the state. We have learned that professional development is crucial for a successful technology program. Teachers using the best computers, the most advanced software and the fastest Internet connections need to know how to use that technology in order to improve education. young people to look elsewhere to find good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.

Pennsylvania's business climate had to change, and I identified the technology industry as a key component of the state's economic recovery. From day one, we went on the offensive to create business opportunities for new and existing technology companies, and reshape Pennsylvania's image from a tired, rustbelt state to an economic powerhouse and global technology leader.

Our strategy has been shaped in large part by the recommendations of industry leaders and academics included in our Technology 21 report. The recommendations in that report regarding workforce development and need for seed capital have shaped our vision and our objectives.

We've also strived to lead by example. Our home page has become a conduit for state government business with the public. We've also committed $10.8 million to help Pennsylvania's public television stations convert from analog to digital technology. DTV offers tremendous opportunities to expand educational programming, conduct community outreach campaigns and share data transmissions.

And, in September, we unveiled an exciting new economic-development concept to make business-to-government contact "friction-free" in the new high-tech economy. Friction-free government is based on the simple notion that, in the new economy, initiatives that allow the private sector to move quickly are just as valuable -- perhaps even more valuable -- than all our low-interest loan programs combined.

In the new economy, speed-to- market often is the single most critical factor in determining which companies succeed and which companies fail. My goal is to make speed an integral component of our economic-development strategy. I believe governments that learn to use technology to facilitate speed -- those that become friction-free -- will see their states prosper. And those that hinder it will stagnate.

In a friction-free Pennsylvania, access to the on-ramps of the Internet economy will be plentiful and cost-effective. Our unmatched record of utility deregulation -- combined with the innovative use of public telecommunications procurement to stimulate private investment -- will ensure that access to high-speed applications is available cheaply and efficiently through a robust alternative of providers and technologies.

In addition to my e-government initiatives, we will continue to foster the use of e-commerce by state agencies and businesses within the commonwealth. Already, four online auctions have saved the commonwealth $4.3 million. The first online auction for a state construction project in September saved Pennsylvanians another $500,000.

We've seen the future, and we're doing everything we can to position Pennsylvania for success on the digital frontier.



Q. Policy-makers are often frustrated when trying to get public support for plans involving complex issues that the general public might not be fully informed about. Technology is not only complex, it's constantly changing. Is it difficult to get public support for spending millions on technology projects that may be complicated to explain, or is the faith in ever-improving technology such that the public embraces such initiatives?

A. Our technology initiatives are no different from any other. We have to do our homework before we invest taxpayer dollars, and there have to be measures in place to track our successes and make changes when technology projects aren't delivering as promised.

As governor, I have an obligation to show Pennsylvania taxpayers the value gained for the money that they have invested. We've done that.

Our partnership with Microsoft to standardize essential word-processing and e-mail software is expected to save $9.2 million over three years.

This has been a mammoth undertaking involving the migration of some 40,000 PCs. Already, we're seeing greater employee productivity and reduced software-training costs.



Q. Government was designed to move fairly and responsibly but not necessarily quickly. Constant change in IT issues and technologies is a challenge to most government agencies. How is this challenge overcome?

A. New technologies are revolutionizing the way the world does business. Like the private sector, I think government must rethink traditional practices and assumptions or risk becoming obstacles to opportunity.

In devising an economic-development strategy to create jobs in the lightning-fast electronic economy, government has to realize that sometimes the best thing it can do is get out of the way. We call this concept friction-free government.

As a powerful example of our friction-free government concept, we're using the Internet to make it easier to start a business in Pennsylvania than anywhere else. We launched a Web site where entrepreneurs can find all of the government forms they need to start a business -- saving time and reducing frustration.

In the near future, new business owners using this Web site will only have to complete a single form. The information contained in that form will be forwarded to the appropriate agencies. That's an example of government using technology to eliminate red tape.

To help job-seekers find good-paying jobs, and help employers get the people they need, we launched Team Pennsylvania CareerLink -- a first-in-the-nation "one-stop" system that brings 36 separate job-training and education programs once administered by five state agencies into one convenient Internet service center. Already, CareerLink has registered 24 million hits from job seekers and employers.

CareerLink takes the old, inflexible government model of "one size fits all" and replaces it with a flexible, convenient and customer-driven system of services.



Q. Speaking of jobs, reports have shown that among today's college students there is a decline in interest in high-tech jobs. Coupled with a boom in demand for employees, many jobs in the high-tech sector are going unfilled. Does this indicate some sort of a protest against the quality of life on the job in the high-tech sector from those willing to forego high wages for a more fulfilling career?

A. I'm not sure that the shortage of IT workers is a reaction against the technology workplace. We need to do a better job exposing young students to technology in the schools and the opportunities that exist in the high-tech job market.

When I tour the facilities of some of our leading high-tech employers, like SAP and Sony, I'm always impressed by the challenges available to their workers and the enthusiasm displayed by workers on the job. High-tech jobs not only offer very competitive wages, but they can be personally satisfying, too.

We've been partnering with high-tech companies like Microsoft and Dell to help meet the workforce needs of the 21st century. We need to provide more high-tech opportunities in our schools and a fast track to jobs following graduation.

Our SciTech Scholars program and GI Bill for the new economy are designed to prepare our students for the high-tech economy and stem the migration of Pennsylvania's young people to other states. Through these programs, students studying in the technology and science fields can get money to help pay for school. In return, for each year they get
a grant, they agree to work for a Pennsylvania employer.

Students exposed to technology are not intimidated by it; they embrace it. They recognize the technology industry is the growth field of the future.



Q.Link-to-Learn, Pennsylvania's technology-in-education initiative, has finished its third year. What have been some major lessons thus far?

A. We used part of Link-to-Learn's third-year investments to measure the impact of technology in the classroom and to identify trends, best practices, and lessons learned by schools. The results of this Educational Technology Impact Analysis can be found
on the Link-to-Learn Web site.

We have seen tremendous growth and progress made throughout the state. We have learned that professional development is crucial for a successful technology program. Teachers using the best computers, the most advanced software and the fastest Internet connections need to know how to use that technology in order to improve education.

We also have learned that state government can be an effective catalyst to encourage learning through technology. Pennsylvania has structured its programs to encourage local commitments to technology and pursued partnerships with leading technology companies, such as Microsoft, 3Com and Cisco, to supplement these efforts.

As a result of community-based networking, thousands of Pennsylvanians benefited from investments made in education through training classes and access to evening computer labs.



Q. Along with education, the state is applying IT to criminal justice, emergency services and economic development. Is technology a cure-all? Assuming that throwing technology at every problem isn't the answer, how do you make sure that technology is being used in conjunction with a broader range of methods, and that it is being applied in the correct places and in correct ways?

A. In Pennsylvania, our focus has been to improve business processes and then use technology as a tool to support those enhanced
services.

For example, we are currently consolidating 19 state data centers that were all operating within seven miles of the state capital. Through cost avoidance, we're able to reinvest considerable money into the desktop and Web-based technologies that offer tremendous promise for improving state services.

That technology will enable us to reach out to our customers 24 hours a day, making us more responsive to the public's needs. That's technology supporting improved business processes.



Q. What did you learn in your Y2K project with Canada?

A. Our Y2K partnership with Canada, Mexico and 15 other states reinforced the value of sharing resources to reach a common goal. Canada was one of our earliest Y2K partners. By cross-licensing our Y2K information products, we got a jump on Y2K and were able to move faster than either of us would have been able to alone.

This project also helped to build bridges for future collaboration. As an offshoot Y2K partnership, school students in Canada and Pennsylvania have become more closely linked over the Internet.



Q. At what point do you consider technology to be just a tool for change, not a driver of change? People are the drivers of change, and those who are successful are the ones who incorporate technology. Where would Pennsylvania be without technology? More importantly, where do you go from here?

A. Pennsylvania was the first state to map its information technology infrastructure: the Pennsylvania Technology Atlas. Resources like satellite downlinks, distance-learning centers and fiber-optic networks can all be identified on a customized map of the commonwealth available to the public at this webpage .

In the process of mapping our schools, we made an interesting observation. While logic might have led one to believe that the most technologically advanced schools would have been those with the greatest financial resources, we found that a more critical factor was the activity of community and educational leaders. The schools with strong leadership, regardless of their resources, were the ones where technology flourished.

People made the difference. By sharing a high-tech vision and rallying community support, these leaders promoted change and led their schools to become technology resources for their local residents. They've opened new opportunities for their students and for their neighborhoods.

In Pennsylvania, we're partnering with communities to prepare them for the 21st century. We awarded a $102,000 state grant in September to help create the first digital community of its kind in the state -- the Lock Haven Electronic Village. Digital communities harness the power of technology to network residents in a variety of ways. A community network can bring together parents with their children's teachers, social-service providers with their clients, workers with potential employers, volunteers with agencies that need them and Main Street businesses with their customers. through technology. Pennsylvania has structured its programs to encourage local commitments to technology and pursued partnerships with leading technology companies, such as Microsoft, 3Com and Cisco, to supplement these efforts.

As a result of community-based networking, thousands of Pennsylvanians benefited from investments made in education through training classes and access to evening computer labs.



Q. Along with education, the state is applying IT to criminal justice, emergency services and economic development. Is technology a cure-all? Assuming that throwing technology at every problem isn't the answer, how do you make sure that technology is being used in conjunction with a broader range of methods, and that it is being applied in the correct places and in correct ways?

A. In Pennsylvania, our focus has been to improve business processes and then use technology as a tool to support those enhanced
services.

For example, we are currently consolidating 19 state data centers that were all operating within seven miles of the state capital. Through cost avoidance, we're able to reinvest considerable money into the desktop and Web-based technologies that offer tremendous promise for improving state services.

That technology will enable us to reach out to our customers 24 hours a day, making us more responsive to the public's needs. That's technology supporting improved business processes.



Q. What did you learn in your Y2K project with Canada?

A. Our Y2K partnership with Canada, Mexico and 15 other states reinforced the value of sharing resources to reach a common goal. Canada was one of our earliest Y2K partners. By cross-licensing our Y2K information products, we got a jump on Y2K and were able to move faster than either of us would have been able to alone.

This project also helped to build bridges for future collaboration. As an offshoot Y2K partnership, school students in Canada and Pennsylvania have become more closely linked over the Internet.



Q. At what point do you consider technology to be just a tool for change, not a driver of change? People are the drivers of change, and those who are successful are the ones who incorporate technology. Where would Pennsylvania be without technology? More importantly, where do you go from here?

A. Pennsylvania was the first state to map its information technology infrastructure: the Pennsylvania Technology Atlas. Resources like satellite downlinks, distance-learning centers and fiber-optic networks can all be identified on a customized map of the commonwealth available to the public at this webpage .

In the process of mapping our schools, we made an interesting observation. While logic might have led one to believe that the most technologically advanced schools would have been those with the greatest financial resources, we found that a more critical factor was the activity of community and educational leaders. The schools with strong leadership, regardless of their resources, were the ones where technology flourished.

People made the difference. By sharing a high-tech vision and rallying community support, these leaders promoted change and led their schools to become technology resources for their local residents. They've opened new opportunities for their students and for their neighborhoods.

In Pennsylvania, we're partnering with communities to prepare them for the 21st century. We awarded a $102,000 state grant in September to help create the first digital community of its kind in the state -- the Lock Haven Electronic Village. Digital communities harness the power of technology to network residents in a variety of ways. A community network can bring together parents with their children's teachers, social-service providers with their clients, workers with potential employers, volunteers with agencies that need them and Main Street businesses with their customers.

It was that vision and community spirit that helped us create the Governor's School for Information Technology -- where Pennsylvania's high-school students receive high-tech training and education from two cutting-edge universities and industry experts. These skills will help launch technology-driven careers in Pennsylvania's new
economy.

Technology creates opportunities, so we have taken steps to promote technology and help technology companies flourish such as establishing the No. 1 state Web site in the nation and putting the address on the state's new license plates; launching a "Pennsylvania's Part of You" campaign to reach out to former Pennsylvanians to tell them about the advantages of living and working in the "New Pennsylvania" and featuring an online Pennsylvania jobs database; unveiling a new Web site designed to make Pennsylvania the easiest place in the nation to start a business; leading technology trade missions abroad to increase high-tech exports and high-tech jobs for Pennsylvania; launching the Technology 21 initiative to catapult Pennsylvania into the top 10 states for high-tech business; and creating the "Made-in-PA" database of Pennsylvania-made products.

By making Pennsylvania more attractive for technology companies, we create opportunities for growth and prosperity. We give communities the chance to remain vibrant centers of industry. And we provide families with the economic stability to grow and achieve their dreams.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Victor Rivero is editor of Converge, a sister publication of Government Technology. Email

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