Skip to content

Washington, D.C. --Not only is Mike Enzi one of our country's newest senators, he's also introducing a new thing to the Senate, the use of laptop computers by members of Congress while carrying out their duties.

Enzi made his debut as the "Cyber Senator" last week when he flipped open his laptop computer at a Labor Committee hearing on technology and the "virtual university."

"I share your interest in and enthusiasm for computers and all their possibilities," he told hearing witnesses. "One thing I plan to do is introduce my laptop to the Senate floor. There is a lot of potential for using a computer to keep in touch with my staff while I am on the floor of the Senate. I can access volumes of information while I follow the debates."

Enzi, who helped with computer programming while employed at an oil well servicing company before being elected to the Senate, believes members of Congress themselves need to utilize the technology available to them. He said this is essential because members need to understand what they are charged with governing.

"We live in an age of unprecedented reliance on technology and exponential growth in the area of information processing. Computers are the vehicles by which this information is processed," said Enzi. "It's only proper that those charged with making sensible laws regarding the Internet, information access, computer use and other areas, actually use computers and know what they're all about."

He said the expanded use of laptop computers by members could have a direct and positive impact on the way Congress does business.

"I could have kept up with the proceedings of this hearing from the Senate floor," said Enzi. "I thought I was going to have to miss part of this today, but the problems of scheduling conflicts could be eased somewhat with ‘virtual hearings.' That would mean I could be here from anywhere. I wouldn't have to miss testimony. In fact, I could make my statement and ask questions by way of this laptop, with my picture showing on the screen."

The ‘Virtual University'

Enzi said his introduction of a laptop computer was fitting at this particular hearing. He told the panel, which included Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, he was an avid supporter of the Western Governors' University, the subject of the hearing.

"This is an exciting topic. Western states and in fact, my own state of Wyoming, are on the cutting edge of education technology with the establishment of a "virtual university," said Enzi. "I know that our governor, Governor (Jim) Geringer, is deeply committed to the Western Governors' University. We also have a new president at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Philip Dubois, who has made distance learning one of his top priorities. In a state like Wyoming, where we have miles and miles of miles and miles, distance learning is perhaps one of the most significant changes in education in history."

Enzi, a former member of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education and the Education Commission of the States, said appreciation for and recognition of the tremendous educational opportunity "virtual universities" will provide, should be the focus of educators and lawmakers. This isn't always the case, he said.

"Most of the concern has been centered on money. How would you know whether to charge in-state or out-of-state tuition? How do you keep people from tapping into the courses for free? How will student aid be handled? These are legitimate concerns, but they will be answered," said Enzi. "Education is our future. We must not let technical concerns stop us from using technology to vastly increase our understanding. The real task ahead of us is modernizing our higher education policy to reflect today's technological realities in education. And as legislators we must add flexibility to the law so it can keep up with the changes of tomorrow."

Constituents can write Enzi via email: senator@enzi.senate.gov Those interested can also better inform themselves of legislative activities by visiting his web site: www.senate.gov./~enzi/