The folks who sell state licenses are being forced into the Information Age, and that's a good thing. The Internet, in many ways, no longer is the wave of the future. It is the wave of the present. That ought to apply to state and local government just as it does to the local store.

The Legislature, appropriately, has required state agencies to prepare Web access to a number of routine government transactions, including driver and vehicle license renewals and applications for welfare and health benefits.The new law, referred to as the "Digital State" bill, is part of Gov. Mike Leavitt's technology proliferation initiative. It sets a July 1, 2002, deadline for most services to be available on the Web and requires the public education community to make "reasonable progress" toward a number of new Internet-based services by that date.

To do things because they've been done the same way for years doesn't make much sense in this era of technological explosion. Of course change that doesn't improve the current situation isn't wise either.

But the Internet looks like it not only will make the licensing process for a number of agencies much faster, it will save money, as well. The downside is that while it saves time, it takes away personal interaction. In simple procedural transactions a personal touch may not be necessary. In others it will be. That should be taken into account before wholesale changes are made.

Because technology tends to frighten some people, they are reluctant to experiment with it, let alone embrace it. The state must continue to accommodate the people who prefer the old-fashioned way of doing business, even as it forges into a new age.

The departments that best adapt to the system overhaul will be the ones that benefit the most.

In Alaska, for example, residents already are able to renew vehicle registrations on the Web at a discount. A Web renewal there costs $1.60, compared with $10 otherwise.

In Utah, the Commerce Department estimates document filings that now cost $60 will cost $10 to $15 if handled on the Web.

The complexity of some licensing processes makes it difficult for certain departments to migrate to the Web. But with time, those obstacles are bound to disappear. The important thing is for the state to begin now to adapt to Internet technology.

The Information Highway is here and government agencies need to get on board.