Internet brings Alaskans, government closer
- By William Matthews
- Jun 22, 2000
If you doubt the power of the Internet to dramatically change the relationship
between the public and the government, talk to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
For Alaskans, the Internet "has altered the way our people deal with government
in ways that were never contemplated by our basic structure of government,
including the Constitution," Stevens told a gathering of U.S. and European
Internet policy specialists Wednesday.
"It's very encouraging for my state," the six-term Republican said.
Until the Internet made electronic government possible, many Alaskans had
little contact with government at any level local, state or federal
Stevens said. But information technology has begun to make Alaskan geography
irrelevant. Telemedicine, distance learning and teleconferencing have become
ways of life in Alaska, Stevens said. And the same technology is bringing
government to the people.
For example, it's possible to apply online for a Federal Communications
Commission license to operate a TV or radio station. Twenty-nine Alaskans
have done so in the past year, avoiding paper mail and phone calls, Stevens
told members of The European Institute.
Instantaneous communication "is a new concept for government," and it is
showing signs of dramatically changing the relationship between citizens
and government officials, Stevens said. There is a sense of urgency about
Internet communication that seems to prompt government workers to "face
questions and provide answers," he said.
If properly used, the Internet might change the stereotype of government
as an unresponsive, nay-saying bureaucracy, Stevens said.
The Internet has already begun to change life in the Senate, he added. His
Senate office in Washington, D.C., receives 100 to 200 e-mail messages each
day from Alaskans, and eight offices across the state receive three times
"Everything we do is online," Stevens said. He posts new information on
his Senate World Wide Web site daily, and information about legislation,
hearings and other government activity is made available on numerous other
government Web sites. Much of it provided by the Library of Congress site.
One of the requirements for senators from Alaska is to appear before the
state legislature each year to report on congressional activities. "This
year, we did it over the Internet so it was available to all remote Alaskans
and indeed, all over the world," Stevens said.