Turning the Government Digital

David Irons is a tech savvy guy. He is currently working on his 3rd startup, his three kids each have their own computer, and his entire house is wired.

He is also the 12th district representative for the King County Council and a big supporter of bringing digital technology into the government. Seattle.internet.com spoke with the councilman to discuss the needs and challenges associated with implementing a digital government.

“The public is demanding that government step out and break the paradigm,” says Irons, who feels that the move to digital government is being driven by constituent demand. “You have one of two choices: either you find ways to deliver what the public wants or you won’t be there after the new elected officials are in place.”

The advantages of implementing digital technology are clear however.

“It’s one of the few venues we have today to shrink budgets, be more effective, more efficient, save money, and provide higher quality services,” says the councilman.

Digital government, according to Irons, enables constituents to access information and services from home, which saves accounting money, saves tax payer money, reduces traffic flow, and improves the environment, among other advantages.

In order to do this a great deal of cooperation is needed. “You have a tremendous variety of technology expertise and knowledge bases inside both the elected officials and the non-elected, and getting a common vision is virtually impossible.”

Irons believes King County needs to be at the center of this.

“A regional form of government, like King County, can bring something to the table that can be attractive to everyone. That’s why King County needs to be a leader in technology and information,” says David Irons.

King County is taking a significant role in establishing a Digital Government. Currently the county is working on a public/private partnership with AT&T to add fiber networks to all government and school buildings in King County.

In addition, they have added real-time audio to their council meetings, and have worked on outsourcing a number of online services such as pet-licensing and parking ticket payments.

In the future, Irons says to expect a total draft of an ITS strategic plan on August 15th.

Like other IT companies around Seattle, government agencies are having difficulties finding quality IT professionals. In addition, the government cannot rely on very competitive salaries to attract the best and brightest.

“We can’t compete dollar for dollar, so we have to do something different,” says Irons. “What King County can do is make a significant investment in training by sending employees to seminars and other training.”

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