- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

RICHMOND Gov. James S. Gilmore III ordered state government yesterday to take its boldest step yet into the computer age, automating tasks as diverse as bidding for state contracts and paying bills, and perhaps allowing more state employees to work from home.

Mr. Gilmore's 11-page executive order establishes an Electronic Government Implementation Division, which, during the next two years at least, will be responsible for allowing state residents and state employees to do government business by computer.

"We're going to reform procurement. We're going to make procurement more Web-enabled. We're going to cut out … lost time, money and effort that were the old ways of government," Mr. Gilmore said in a speech to the annual gathering of his administration's department heads.

Mr. Gilmore appointed Bette H. Dillehay to oversee the division responsible for making state government more computer-interactive. As director of the state's Century Date Change Initiative, she headed the project to ensure that none of the state's computer systems crashed on New Year's Day, victims of the so-called year-2000 bug. The state reported no problems.

Her job will be to "assure that Virginians benefit substantially from the convenience, accuracy and efficiency of interfacing with government and education via the Internet." That could embrace aims as broad as paying fines, applying for permits and licenses, and bidding to provide goods and services to the state from any computer in the world.

It also could open the door to "telecommuting," by which some state employees could do their jobs from home.

"I think we are very open to that," Mr. Gilmore told reporters after his speech. "If we can pinpoint the jobs in state government that allow people to work primarily on the entry of information or working through computers, we'd be very open to … telecommuting, and that would be in all parts of the state."

Ratcheting up the state's use of and dependence on computers is a natural for Mr. Gilmore, who has aggressively promoted the state's rapidly growing high-tech and Internet industries since he took office in 1998. Among the state's major telecommunications companies is Sterling-based America Online, the world's largest Internet provider.

Mr. Gilmore is an advocate of unfettered Internet development and an opponent of taxes on on-line transactions. His involvement in technology issues landed him at the head of a congressionally appointed panel that explored the Internet's future. Earlier this year, that panel was profoundly divided in its recommendation that Congress keep its present moratorium against taxing sales done over the Internet.

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