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A new state computer bulletin board opened to the public Wednesday, and Gov. Mike Leavitt assures Utahns they will not be a casualty on the information highway.

Anyone with a computer, modem and a telephone can dial 538-3383 in the Salt Lake area or 1-800-UTAHNET in the rest of the state to access the state bulletin board.Consumer tips, state job bulletins, road conditions, Department of Corrections press releases and air-quality information can be found.

Anyone who wants to contact the governor won't have to pay the price for a postage stamp because Leavitt publicized his Internet e-mail address: governor@email.state.ut.us.

Leavitt said he wants to make sure everyone has access to the system, regardless of his or her ability to own a computer, by making it available in public places such as libraries and schools.

"We want to make government information available to everyone possible and at the lowest cost possible," said LaVarr Webb, the governor's policy deputy.

Webb said the bulletin board fits within the current budget of the Division of Information Technology Services and needed no new money. Webb said in about two years the system will actually start saving the state money.

He cited the example of the Department of Commerce, which reduced the number of workers at a processing counter by accessing commerce information electronically. He said the job loss is made up by job growth elsewhere, which translates into more efficient use of employees.

The bulletin board is not limited to any system, said Jim King, technical specialist for the division. But King asked for patience because of the traffic jams caused by Wednesday's announcement. The system took about 450 calls Wednesday, and King anticipated about 1,000 Thursday from users who were just checking the new system out.

King said that although the system is skeletal right now, full access will be attained in about two weeks. He can't predict when the system will be full-blown because it could grow infinitely.

Webb also spoke about how the network will become the new marketplace. Users could send out an electronic agent to gather information for their business, such as costs, availability and quality of supplies. Individuals could shop, pay their credit card bills, pay taxes, keep track of their kids' grades and do it all electronically.

He also said the system will save millions of dollars. Weber State University estimated it could save $100,000 a year in postage costs alone by assigning each student a mailbox in the system, Webb said. The student could then access grade, registration and other information.

King encourages potential users to take advantage of ITS's free, one-hour training session. Those interested can call Michelle Baksh at 538-3461.