Advancing Arkansas with New Technology
"Moving our state government into the age of Web sites, e-mail and on-line services was not only a necessary and much needed action, but one of the most beneficial changes made to stae government during the past decade. State employees now have better access to information they need to conduct their work, and Arkansas citizens have better access to government services and assistance."
During the past decade, Arkansas faced numerous crossroads with regard to on-line technology. Though today it is hard to remember what life was like before the Internet, for most Arkansans, there remains an unpleasant memory of standing in long lines to renew car registrations and going through the hassles simply to purchase fishing or hunting licenses. Attempting to search state records was an all-day and tedious struggle and communicating with elected officials generally consisted of trading letters through “snail mail.”
Arkansas stood at a technology crossroads, facing a decision of whether to embrace technological changes or to maintain the status quo and continue providing average services to our citizens. To Mike Huckabee, the decision was easy and today, Arkansas can point to being a national leader in providing electronic services to its citizens.
When Mike Huckabee first became governor, there were few, if any, online services available. State government had yet to even create its first Web site. Today, e-visitors to Arkansas find a much different and brighter picture mainly because of the successful transition to e-government. By 2000, former Gov. Pete Wilson of California, who was then working in the global telecommunications and technology business, proclaimed Arkansas as leading the nation in its movement toward e-government. On Mike's watch, Arkansas has been on the forefront of providing on-line services, and Arkansans take pride in that recognition.
Mike also made sure his own office set the example of utilizing technology to provide enhanced services to the citizens. For many, e-government is simply considered "online government" or "Internet-based government." More accurately, many non-Internet based technologies can be used in this context, including television and radio-based delivery of government services, e-mail, online community facilities, newsgroups and electronic mailing lists technologies, even digital photography. Toward the end of 2001, Mike oversaw the transition in his office to digital photography. Immediately, photographs taken throughout Arkansas or even abroad, from Cuba to Taiwan, from Pakistan to Japan, were posted virtually real-time on his office Web site.
To Mike Huckabee, the most important benefits of e-government have been improved efficiency, convenience, and accessibility of public services. The transition to e-government provided services meant Arkansans could have immediate access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No longer was a citizen required to drive to some government office between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on a weekday to complete his or her dealings with the state for a wide array of services. Better yet, not only did dealing with state government become easier, from the start state government began to accomplish the work with less expense to Arkansas taxpayers.
The Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System formed the foundation of this transition to e-government. AASIS was the first statewide Enterprise Resource Planning system implemented anywhere in the nation. In Arkansas, it was the largest information technology project in state government history. AASIS allowed Arkansas to automate many manual functions of state government, increasing government efficiency while enabling a more accurate and real-time accounting of how taxpayer money is expended. With Mike's leadership, Arkansas standardized and streamlined the financial and administrative functions of state government, reducing redundant data entry, simplifying storage and processing procedures and improving financial controls. Today, Arkansas maintains functions such as financial management and accounting, asset management, procurement, payroll, and benefits administration in a single, Web-based system. Reports and records are available on demand. The success of AASIS is well recognized, including by the eGov Institute who in 2003 presented their Pioneer Award to Governor Huckabee on behalf of the citizens of the state.
Technology advances formed the basis for another excitin state government program, widely known as GeoStor. Initiated in late 1998 as a two-year reserach project, Governor Huckabee provided the initial funding to create a first-of-its-kind, statewide, seamless, enterprise-class geospatial information system. Today, GeoStor is an Internet accessible database delivering geographic data suitable for use in a wide range of geographic information systems, from desktop machines in state and local government offices to teachers and students in K-12 education throughout the state. Technicians compile all available digital map data for the state of Arkansas into the GeoStor database, including roads, streams, aerial photography, satellite imagery, and elevation data. In 2006, GeoStor exceeded an incredible half million mark for feature and image views of map layers.
GeoStor helps state and local governments plan for natural disasters as well as digitally reconstruct photographic overlays of areas of our state when significantly damaged by tornados and floods. City planners and developers also use this system, finding it to be a necessary tool in preparing their projects.
Perhaps the technological advance Mike Huckabee is best known for, and probably most appreciated for, is the Streamline Auto Renewal program or STAR. Gone are the days of standing in line, after having visited two or three other locations for necessary paperwork, simply to renew registration for one's automobile license. Today, Arkansas residents have the capability to renew motor vehicle registrations, any time of the day or night, from the comfort of their home or office.
Under Mike Huckabee's leadership, things in Arkansas have definitely changed for the better. Instead of having to wait a couple of days or sometimes even weeks for paperwork to arrive in the mail, Arkansans now complete an online form, submit it electronically and save a stamp or two, not to mention several hours of effort. At the present, Arkansas offers in excess of 400 state services online and, on average, 50 more are added each year. With Mike Huckabee at the helm, not only did Arkansans witness their state government become more efficient and accessible, their state became known as a leader in transitioning to the digital era.