Geringer: Governors Want To Improve High-Access Services

Geringer: Governors Want To Improve High-Access Services

Gov. Jim Geringer

Wyoming's Republican Gov. Jim Geringer spends a lot of time studying how governors can use technology effectively to run their states. Now in his second term, Geringer, 54, serves with Washington Gov. Gary Locke as co-chairman of the IT Task Force for the National Governors' Association.

But Geringer's interest in advanced technology pre-dates his election as governor in 1994. While on active duty in the Air Force, he worked on a variety of aerospace projects, including launches of reconnaissance satellites, the global positioning satellite system and NASA's Viking Mars lander program.

Appropriately, Geringer e-mailed his responses to questions from Washington Technology Staff Writer Steve LeSueur about the key technology issues facing the governors and their states.

WT: Connecticut Gov. John Rowland has run into many obstacles trying to outsource his state's IT services. What do you think of his efforts?

GERINGER: The difference between being a visionary and a fool may only be a matter of timing. As a general principle, Gov. Rowland did the right thing. Businesses are sticking to their core capabilities. Government should also. Government is not known for being on the leading edge of any issue.

Given the rate of change in technology and applications, businesses [that] specialize in information technology should be more flexible, more effective and of lower cost compared to government.

WT: What are governors' main concerns regarding new information technologies?

GERINGER: Their primary concern is keeping the focus on the results of information technologies. Too often, government will focus on the process rather than the end result.

Some questions governors might ask before approving new technologies are: How much can I spend and make it pay? Am I merely enhancing already existing functions, or am I enabling people to accomplish tasks that couldn't be done before? Am I improving direct citizen access? What partnerships with business and the private sector can help?

WT: What are the top priorities as governors try to get their arms around new technologies and projects?

GERINGER: The leading applications for information technology would be to improve high cost or high access services.

Public education is the primary focus for technology applications, along with higher education. The governors want our kids and our country to be prepared to be more competitive and more effective through education services.

Other areas include health care, public safety and land-use planning, and open-space initiatives. In the health care area, telemedicine and the use of smart cards can deliver benefits and services electronically and more securely. Geographic information systems can be used to spot high crime areas and to provide for more effective emergency response. For land-use planning,, geographic information systems can be used to identify critical areas and enhance public input.

WT: What projects are Wyoming's top priorities?

GERINGER: Our top projects fall largely within the above issues.

We are pushing for enhanced communications and connectivity as a high priority. Bandwidth is the answer to many applications. While it's the pipe to enable the services that we ultimately want to focus on, connectivity and access to the fiber optic pipe are needed.

Other areas of focus include:

Education — Connectivity and developing courses that integrate technology, not bolt it on. Professional development is a priority to enable more effective teaching.

Health care — Development of a smart card that can be used for at least five different health services: Food stamps, low income health care, immunizations, early childhood education (Head Start), improved nutrition services for low income mothers and children, and general medical history.

Centers of excellence in small towns — Developing the basic talent and infrastructure to enable smaller towns to attract technology-based economic development.

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