| Carole Keeton Rylander|
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Despite its impressive progress, Texas government still has a long way to go to realize the full benefits of the Internet. According to the 2000 Digital State Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government, Government Technology magazine, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation, in the areas of technology application in the 50 states, Texas ranks:
These results are good, but not good enough to put Texas in a leadership position for the future. To get there, we will need to make fundamental changes in the way government thinks and acts.
The e-Texas Commission sees this transformation building on four basic themes.
1. Change is inevitable.
Information technology is irrevocably changing the way the world works, shops, learns and communicates—and will continue to redefine the landscape for years to come.
Just look at what's happening to our capacity to move information. Transmitting data in megabytes (millions of bytes per second) was a breakthrough a few years ago; today, gigabytes (billions) are commonplace, and terabytes (trillions) are cutting edge.
Where will this exponential growth in computing power and connectivity lead us? No one knows. What we can count on is continuing risk, uncertainty and discontinuity.
2.Technology is changing the rules.
By making it possible for transactions to take place anywhere at any time, the Internet is changing everything: not only the economy, but the way we think about space, time, speed, value, even community. These changes are creating new ways of doing business, new ways of thinking and new terminology.
3. Government is being challenged to think and act differently.
No matter how much things change, government will still matter. The public will still want government to maintain its end of the social contract: to provide education, protect the public, promote economic growth and assure fairness. That said, we expect technological changes to have a huge impact on government in terms of what services are offered, how those services are provided and who provides them.
Why? Government's customers are demanding it. According to Andersen Consulting, 58 percent of Americans rate e-government a very high priority, and an additional 25 percent rank it as a medium priority. In Texas, the University of Texas' Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute found that 67 percent of Texans surveyed use computers and 60 percent use the Internet.
Despite concerns about privacy and security, these citizens are interested in digital government services. They want the same kind of quick, personal service they get from business, not the confusing maze, long lines and paper forms that have characterized government. They want to ask questions and receive prompt answers. They want to get their government business done quickly and easily. And if government doesn't meet the demand, a third party is going to do it for them, as demonstrated by the recent proliferation of "dot govs" (e.g., ezgov.com, govworks.com, link2gov.com, and netgov.com).
4. We need to start the transformation now—and build on what we start.
The Internet makes it possible to truly reinvent government. This is an incredible opportunity to be bold, to do things that are original and unexpected, and to meet or exceed constituents' expectations.
But to get there we must overcome the obstacles of the past. According to state information officers surveyed by the National Association of State Information Resource Executives, the major challenges to government are:
"The way it's always been done" will simply not be sufficient for the future. Instead, everyone involved—elected officials, public managers, employees and citizens—must move outside the comfort zone, be creative in seeking solutions, and be willing to take risks. We all need to understand that risk is inevitable in a world of rapid change, and the risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of taking action.
The answer is not to sit still, but to stake a course, start moving and be ready to change along the way. That means implementing e-government projects, learning from the experience and applying what's learned along the way. It means investing in the technology infrastructure that will define our future. And it means getting started—now.