Make room for fiber optics and fly-fishing
- By Mike Huckabee
- Sep 04, 2000
You can do about anything these days on the Internet. Americans are taking
advantage of online services in record numbers. They sit down at home computers
to pay bills, trade stocks, buy books, bid on antiques, share photos and
PCs are more affordable than ever. Some companies are even giving away
computers in exchange for small monthly fees or long-term service agreements.
That's not to mention the free Internet access provided by some advertising-supported
providers. And many companies offer em-ployees subsidized personal computers
and free Internet access.
The private sector is riding the wave of this technological revolution.
Unfortunately, government has not kept pace.
My goal in Arkansas is to revolutionize the way state government does
business. Our customers are the taxpayers, and we should be available to
them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They should be able to do their
business with the government when it's convenient for them, not when it's
convenient for us.
What will be required across the country is a new vision on the part
of officeholders and government employees. We must move to a click-and-order
mind-set. Rather than constructing more government buildings, we should
be investing taxpayer dollars to build computer networks. Technological
advances have given us an opportunity to stem the growth of government,
make it less expensive and provide better service.
As chairman of the Southern Governors' Association, I have made my theme
"From Fiber Optics to Fly- Fishing." I want to find a way for Arkansas to
be on the cutting edge of technology without sacrificing the quality of
life we've enjoyed in the South. Much of the growth we've experienced in
this country in the past decade is tied to the growth of information technology
and telecommunications. Officeholders have an obligation to ensure that
all citizens are plugged into this new economy. Our poor, rural and minority
residents have the most to gain from this revolution if we can find ways
to close the digital divide and ensure that they have access to the Internet
and advanced telecommunications services.
We must set up an infrastructure that will benefit poor, rural residents
of our country as well as wealthy, urban residents. More of the population
in the South is rural than in any other region of the country, so this is
an especially critical issue here in Arkansas. Also, the presence of an
advanced telecommunications infrastructure in all parts of the region will
play a key role in companies' decisions to bring good-paying jobs here.
State and local governments must put strategic plans in place and then appropriate
the money necessary to implement those plans.
Arkansas was ranked seventh nationally in a survey of how well technology
is being used in welfare-reform efforts. And our automated system for car
tag renewals is a model for other states. We give Arkansans direct access
to their legislators and legislative materials via a Web site. It's easy
to track the status of bills. A separate Web site for the judicial branch
provides information about courts, judges and decisions.
Among the services available online in Arkansas are corporation filings,
motor-fuel tax filings, insurance tax filings, renewal of various state
licenses and workers' compensation claim searches. In the governor's office,
we use our Web page to post the texts of my weekly radio addresses, post
news releases and maintain an electronic message site from which I send
regular newsletters and hold monthly chat sessions.
Our goal is a seamless electronic government. For too long, those of
us in government have approached this subject on a piecemeal, agency-to-agency
basis. We have state information systems that cannot communicate with one
another. This must change. This new world demands not only new networks
in state government but also a new management style. Government must ensure
that the money spent on technology is spent in a strategic manner and not
used to purchase a system that could be obsolete the day it's delivered.
It's time for government to mirror the best practices of the nation's
top private-sector organizations. If we accomplish that, we'll eliminate
duplication, ensure compatibility, prioritize projects for funding, build
a collaborative working environment and create a government culture in which
ideas are shared, rather than having various departments act as individual
fiefdoms. In essence, we'll accomplish what should be the goal of any officeholder — creating a more efficient, user-friendly government that spends tax dollars
—Huckabee is the governor of Arkansas. His technology efforts were honored
in civic.com's State and Local 50 awards