Arkansas' new CIO is enthusiastic about e-gov

Arkansas' recently appointed CIO, Carolyn G. Osborne, likes her newly adopted state, but she said she 'still has to get the tar off my heels.'

Osborne spent the last 30 years in Raleigh, N.C., where she was founder of GoBeyond LLP, a company specializing in e-commerce. As a newcomer to Arkansas, she told her coworkers at a meeting that she just couldn't master the famous University of Arkansas Razorback yell. A gentleman immediately stood up and led the auditorium in a rollicking cry of 'Wooo, pig, sooie!'

Arkansans have brought this same enthusiasm to e-government, Osborne said. For example, Arkansas was one of the first states to let car owners renew their license plates over the Internet.

'The goal of e-government is pretty simple,' she said. 'It's not more government, it's better government. E-government breaks down the walls between citizens and government. No more having to take a half-day off of work to wait in line.'

Some of the steps the state will have to take along the road to a more streamlined government are 'not very glamorous,' Osborne said. 'It includes all the nonsexy back-office stuff, like payroll and human resources.'

Arkansas government is the second-largest employer in the state, behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Osborne said. In the next few years, a large number of state employees will be ready for retirement. 'So we need to capture that knowledge base and experience,' she said.

Osborne is working with Gov. Mike Huckabee to close the digital divide. Seventy-four percent of schools in high-income neighborhoods have Internet access, compared with 34 percent in low-income neighborhoods. 'At the most basic level, e-government really starts with the child in the classroom,' she said.

Osborne realizes the road ahead has challenges. 'Yes, there's always going to be limited funding,' she said. But cooperation among state agencies, the cabinet and the Legislature will turn the vision of e-government reaching out to its citizens into a reality, she added.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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