With a laptop computer and large projection screens, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates led the nation’s governors on a quick tour of the Internet Wednesday, urging them to streamline their operations by more fully computerizing.
“Citizens are interested in more information if they can easily reach out and get it,” Gates said. “If we do this right they can participate in more forms and on a more regular basis in the democratic process.”
Among his suggestions: setting up computer kiosks in public places to allow citizens without computers to get in touch with government and other information sources.
Gates, whose software empire has made him the richest man in the world, spoke at the concluding session of the annual summer meeting of the National Governors’ Association.
From his laptop, Gates pointed and clicked onto two state government Internet sites he held up for praise - those of Wisconsin and Florida.
Both sites offer a host of useful information about the states, ranging from Florida restaurants that failed state health inspections to information on how to do business with the state of Wisconsin.
“This technology can draw people in,” Gates said.
Gates said that, for the most part, federal and state governments were laggards in the technology revolution.
In streamlining his own company, Gates said, he found that Microsoft had “over 1,000 printed forms. It was wild.” He has since managed to convert all but six to their electronic equivalent, he told the governors.
“There were six we couldn’t get rid of,” he said. “That’s because the federal government required them to be submitted in paper.”
Governors told Gates they were impressed with his presentation.
Ohio Gov. George Voinovich, incoming chairman of the association, said he would try to convene a conference within the next six months to a year to focus in more detail on how state governments can use computer technology more efficiently.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.