Don't think twice, IT's all right
- By John Monroe
- Mar 04, 2001
Strange as it may sound, there couldn't be a better time for an economic
slowdown, as far as government IT managers are concerned. Had this happened
a couple of years ago, government agencies, anticipating revenue shortfalls,
might have put a lot of technology projects on the chopping block. But this
year's State of the State speeches by the nation's governors suggest that
probably won't happen now.
Although some cuts are still inevitable, the damage might be limited
because technology is intricately linked with most governors' top priorities,
including economic development, education and law enforcement.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, for example, is already asking state agencies to
reduce spending by as much as 4 percent — but not funding for economic development
related to high technology or for education. His proposals include funding
the Appalachian New Economy Partnership to increase IT skills and to provide
assistance to start-up companies in the region.
Taft also wants to expand a program that gives students online access
to Advanced Placement courses in districts where they are not available.
South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges proposes an even more expansive program,
including more classroom technology, free technical education for anyone
at any age, and college scholarships and master's degree programs for teachers
who want to upgrade their skills. The education program will draw on revenue
generated by a statewide lottery.
With these and similar proposals, the nation's governors make it clear
that they see a link between technology and the well-being of their communities.
In similar fashion, states continue to fund programs that will move
government services online.
Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci identifies electronic government as
one of five key investment priorities. In addition to choosing a new address
for its portal and redesigning it to make it easier to use, the commonwealth
plans to launch a campaign to educate citizens and businesses about information
and transactions available online.
And newly elected Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, noting that her administration
will "exist in its entirety during the Internet era," said the time is right
to harness the Internet to provide better service and resources to citizens.
Last year, maybe a little more than half of the governor's talked about
tech proposals. This year, it's closer to three-fourths. In some cases where
governors did not have new proposals to pitch, they took the opportunity
to highlight their accomplishments of the preceding year.
Technology clearly has become a point of pride for governors, like education
and law enforcement. That is not to say that IT projects won't feel the
budget squeeze — unnecessary projects will get cut or deferred, like anything
else. But at least the state's top administrators now recognize that IT
can play a vital role in governing and deserves careful consideration.