On Track For a Bright Future
02-22-2007, The Daily Oklahoman - Gavin W. Manes
As Oklahoma continues to celebrate its milestone centennial anniversary, we honor our rich history and industries. Oil helped propel Oklahoma to its economic height, and there is no doubt that the discovery of black gold shaped our first 100 years of statehood.

However, we must also look to Oklahoma's future while celebrating our past. In the last decade, Oklahoma has excelled in computer security, information assurance and digital forensics.

Oklahoma is consistently on the leading edge of fighting cyber crime in the Midwest. For years, we have been building cyber crimes units within local police departments and regional units in the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Several federal task forces within the Secret Service and the FBI have been formed to protect children online.

Oklahoma also is known for its progressive information security laws. For example, recent legislation requires every state agency to perform annual risk assessments in order to be proactive in safeguarding digital information from unauthorized access. Preference is given to Oklahoma-based contractors to ensure jobs and economic advantages are kept in state, and last year two local companies were selected.

Education is key to continuing Oklahoma's position as a leader in the technology industry. In fact, one of the premier educational institutions for information assurance and digital forensics resides at the University of Tulsa. The Center for Information Security at TU works closely with local community colleges and the CareerTech system, ensuring Oklahoma produces talented information security professionals.

Much of the staff working on the state's risk assessment projects come from these schools. The preferred vendor for these assessments came from TU's Board of Trustees Technology Transfer Committee, which encourages high-tech entrepreneurial ventures.

The results of educational investments are clear when entrepreneurs are able to start and run successful companies. Following the guidance of the Legislature, business owners should use local services, rather than outsourcing out of state.

I am a proud resident of Oklahoma and have declined several chances to move in order to take advantage of local opportunities. TU provided me educational, teaching and business prospects that led to founding a digital forensics business in Tulsa. I can hire qualified forensics investigators from the world-class community college system and know that they have the requisite skills to support our professional services.

Oklahoma is in a crucial development stage, and progressive legislation demonstrates we're looking in the right direction. Leaders are actively recruiting young professionals, developing small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs. We must be proactive with economic development initiatives, particularly supporting high-technology business ventures by locally educated individuals.

Oklahoma's centennial gives our state a chance to look back at our astounding successes, and we are clearly on the right track toward a bright future.

Manes is president and director of research for Oklahoma Digital Forensics Professionals Inc.