When we think of data sharing we often don’t see the faces of those who immediately benefit from these efforts. For many students in Mississippi’s public-school system, state departments using data wisely could be the difference between passing and failing.

Those of us who have attempted to work or learn on an empty stomach know it makes everything more difficult. This is supported by countless studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which have shown a direct correlation between academic success and nutritional health. For this reason, states are federally required to implement a free or reduced-cost meal program in public schools to assure that, at a minimum, 95 percent of youth from lower socio-economic circumstances have the nutrition they need to remain focused and engaged throughout the school day.

School lunch

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

According to a recent article in Government Technology (“Interagency Data Sharing Agreement Helps Mississippi Feed Its Schoolchildren,” Government Technology, July 25, 2017), between 20 and 30 percent of students in Mississippi’s public school system who qualified for subsidized meals had not registered in a school meals program and were going entire school days without a meal, despite the fact that Mississippi has a free or reduced-cost meals program in place. As a result of the deficiency, the federal government cited the state for falling short of the mandate requiring 95 percent of eligible students to be enrolled in the subsidized meal program.

In order to address this issue, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) decided to explore a new approach. Through an interagency agreement, the MDE collaborated with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to electronically match MDE student social security information, provided during school registration, with social security information provided to DHS for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. As a result, MDE found there were numerous students eligible for SNAP benefits who were not receiving subsidized lunches.

By sharing this information, the MDE was able to identify the students that qualified for free lunches and enroll them in the program.

The department demonstrated a significant example of the benefits of data sharing among state agencies. The MDE now meets the federal mandate, serving well over 90 percent of eligible students and has avoided the need for students to provide additional documentation. Most importantly, many at-risk children now receive the nutrition they need to learn and join their classmates at lunch free from the stigma of signing up for subsidized meals and are better able to reach their academic potential.

Did you know you could do your taxes online?

Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Taxation.


The State of Hawaii’s Tax System Modernization project is an ambitious initiative. It continues to receive a high level of attention and scrutiny — and rightly so. As far as state projects go, it is one of the largest and also one of the most necessary.

Earlier this month, Gov. David Ige named Linda Chu Takayama interim director of the Department of Taxation (DOTAX) following the resignation of Maria Zielinski, the former director. This change provides an opportunity for a fresh perspective.

“I am committed to ensuring that the revenue engine of the state, including the technology needed to support this critical function, works well,” said Takayama, who had been serving as the director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations since April 2015. In her new position, effective Dec. 11, Takayama has stated she is committed to working with all parties, especially department staff, to ensure the taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, are well served.

By all accounts, the project is a worthy investment. A modern, effective and efficient state tax collection system is what Hawaii taxpayers expect and deserve.

New Hawaii Tax online website

The new Hawaii Tax Online website automatically adjusts to provide the best experience possible on any device. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Taxation.

Nevertheless, concerns about a range of problems prompted lawmakers to withhold the funds requested by the governor during the 2017 legislative session. Going into the 2018 session, the administration is taking steps to provide reassurance that the project is succeeding.

Providing the state Chief Information Officer with greater oversight of the project in July 2017 was a good first step. Many of the issues that have since come to light are now being addressed as a direct result of the CIO’s direct involvement. Transform Hawaii Government applauds this increase of project governance and transparency, including the CIO’s posting of quarterly “Independent Validation and Verification” project assessments at ets.hawaii.gov since July.

In the governor’s supplemental budget proposal submitted last week, the administration is asking for an additional $16.5 million in capital improvement project funds to continue the project into fiscal year 2019. As long as concerns are addressed, THG supports this request to keep the momentum of the project moving on its current schedule.

While legislators were wise to deliver a strong warning last summer, the willingness of the CIO and now, the new director, to advocate for greater collaboration and transparency are reassuring. Based on both of their track records of success, THG supports giving them that opportunity by funding next year’s budget request.

Transform Hawaii Government’s (THG) first year as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization was a time of transition and learning. It was also a year of accomplishments.

Mahalo and Happy Holidays. See you in 2018!

From supporting legislation strengthening oversight of state modernization projects, to gaining a seat at the table advising the head of IT for state government, let’s reflect on what we’ve accomplished together to move transformation forward.

Early 2017 focused on building strength through numbers. Members of the volunteer THG Leadership Committee introduced our vision through outreach presentations to various organizations such as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

The legislative session provided opportunities for our active coalition members to voice their opinions to local lawmakers. The coalition advocated for measures to enhance oversight of state IT projects and improve services to families with young children. These bills included the following:

  • Senate Bill 850 – Signed into law as Act 37, SLH 2017, this measure provides new authority for the state Chief Information Officer (CIO) to identify IT projects within the executive branch that will be required to have “Independent Verification and Validation” assessments to ensure success. Read more about the bill signing here: http://ets.hawaii.gov/governor-signs-senate-bill-850/
  • House Bill 918 – Carried over to the 2018 session, this measure, if passed, will appropriate funds to procure a real-time, integrated web-based data system to the agency responsible for children ages 1-3 with developmental delays or disabilities. Watch for future issues of the THG newsletter for how you can support this bill during the upcoming 2018 legislative session.

In May, Christine Sakuda became THG’s first executive director. She quickly dove into the role by meeting with legislators, government employee leadership, and department heads to identify opportunities to support and facilitate IT and business process modernization.

In late summer, THG earned an appointed position at the State of Hawaii’s IT Steering Committee, an oversight group that advises the CIO in the development of state IT standards and policies. The committee in-turn evaluates the CIO’s performance for effectiveness annually.

THG was a proud sponsor of the state’s second Hawaii Annual Code Challenge (“the HACC”) in the fall. The HACC is a community programing event designed to engineer solutions for challenges facing state departments through app development. In 2018, we will continue our support of the civic tech community through the inaugural AGathon from Jan. 6 to 12. AGathon is Hawaii’s premier hackathon primed specifically to fuel innovative solutions to problems in the agriculture industry.

Lastly, to keep the momentum going, THG bolstered its outreach efforts to the general public through a regular column in Honolulu Civil Beat. This platform enables THG to inform citizens about improvements needed in state government operations and to generate discussion on how to prioritize IT for a better government. Read “The Open Data Movement Is Growing” by Christine Sakuda, in Honolulu Civil Beat, Nov. 8, 2017: http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/11/the-open-data-movement-is-growing/

In the months ahead, we ask for your continued support in testifying on legislative initiatives that will facilitate delivery of state department services, increase accessibility and transparency through up-to-date data, and improve cybersecurity for the state.

While the modernization of state government infrastructure and processes sometimes takes patience and determination, smart investments in technology will give our government leaders and employees the data and tools they need to tackle challenges more effectively.

Mahalo for your support in 2017. We look forward to engaging with you, our coalition members, in advocating as a collective voice for an open, secure and responsive state government.

Keiki photo


Hawaii’s public-school system is taking significant steps to package test scores and a wide range of data to create an important resource for its parents, teachers and school administrators.


The new digital tool represents a major shift from the days when parents and other stakeholders in Hawaii’s public schools, who wanted to check on school performance, could only look in the paper for the standardized test scores that were released each fall.


Now, the state DOE has launched an online tool that allows easy tracking of the progress Hawaii’s public-school students are making on a variety of measures found in the state’s 2017-2020 strategic plan for education.


Known as the Strategic Plan Dynamic Report, the new tool organizes data into indicators of how DOE students are doing. Among these indicators are chronic absenteeism, third-grade literacy, various academic achievement measures, ninth-grade passage rates, college-going graduates, and Career & Technical Education. The department’s strategic plan sets targets for each of the measures.


9th Grade on Track | Hawaii DOE

Percentage of ninth grade students advancing to tenth grade as seen on the Strategic Plan Dynamic Report data visualization tool. (Click the image for additional detail.)


The online report enables users to determine the performance of students in various school complexes by selecting a complex from a pull-down menu. Likewise, within any complex, a student subgroup menu shows the indicators for students in various groups, including males, females, disabled students and students of different ethnicities.


For example, the online reporting tool reveals science performance gained statewide, moving to 46 percent from 43 percent proficient, while the percentage of ninth-graders who moved up to 10th grade on time remained flat at 91 percent.


Now, those with a stake in our public schools can easily see the progress, or lack of progress, among various schools and groups and how much remains to be done to reach the goals established for each in the strategic plan.


The Strategic Plan Dynamic Report website uses the 2015-2016 school year as a baseline. It measures changes from that year against the target set for each category for 2020.


Wouldn’t it be convenient if getting services from state government were as easy as shopping at Amazon.com? State government, with its array of departments and agencies, is practically as diverse in the offerings to be found on Amazon. Some states are beginning to recognize the advantages of an online one-stop-shop, where you can search for and easily locate a state government service, without having to visit each department and agency website individually.


Like Amazon, the ideal state omnibus site would be personalized to the needs of the resident using it. The site would recognize the citizen individually at login, know the range of services used on previous visits and direct them quickly to what they’re looking for.


According to a feature article in Government Technology (How Can Government Deliver an Amazon-esque Service Experience to Constituents? Nov. 3, 2017), three states, Georgia, Utah and Ohio have made the biggest strides in creating a customer-centric site.


Georgia was able to get all agencies to agree to single portal access through the state website, which was developed using best practices that enable it to adapt to new technologies, like Alexa. But it wasn’t easy.


Georgia’s Chief Digital Officer Nikhil Deshpande noted that the critical elements in developing the state’s site were fostering buy-in across agencies, data-driven decision-making and creating one source of information for consistency.


He also stated that creating a culture of data-driven decision making was beneficial, too. A challenge still facing government, unlike Amazon or other online retailers, is accommodating every last person in the state, not just customers. Systems must be made for people who use all devices, from laptops to Amazon’s Alexa to old-school phones, and they must be accessible for people with disabilities. There are also people who still walk into government offices to do business.


Rather than create a single site for every resident, Utah decided to start with an omnibus site exclusively for businesses. In addition to providing a single online venue where businesses could conduct transactions with state agencies, the state can also use it to send texts directly to business owners alerting them when it’s time to renew licenses.


Ohio may be the state that aspires most closely to providing the Amazon experience. Ohio CIO Stu Davis believes personalization is key to customer-centric digital efforts: “People don’t love Amazon because it’s a pretty website,” Bridges said. “People love Amazon because it gets you right to the content you want, expeditiously.”


To date, Ohio has focused heavily on creating an enterprise ID that makes it easier to identify individual users and what they need.


The State of Hawaii has a head start in providing a collection of services for its citizens online via my.hawaii.gov, which includes selected information and state online services for businesses and residents, along with information for visitors. The site also includes links to some services in each county.


However, my.hawaii.gov is not a true one-stop shop, but more of an aggregator where links to all of the department sites can be found. For most services, it is still necessary to visit the individual departments. Like a Google search, the site’s search function generates a page of entries related to keywords the user types in.


Hawaii’s Office of Enterprise Technology Services already has a full plate of IT infrastructure work. But it would be encouraging for the state to at least begin laying plans for our own user-centric one-stop-shop portal in the not-too-distant future.


The state collects a tremendous amount of data every day, from transactions between state agencies and the public, to traffic counts, to the number and type of services provided to Hawaii residents. Recently, the state has made significant progress on taking this data and packaging it to document the performance of state government on a range of fronts.


As noted in an opinion column, The Open Data Movement Is Growing, by THG Executive Director Christine Sakuda published in Honolulu Civil Beat, several state departments have made good use of their data, packaging it and providing it to inform and educate the public.


The state administration provides the public with a view on how the state measures its own progress through a variety of websites.   The State of Hawaii Open Government Dashboard (dashboards are infographics displaying data in an easily understandable format) Open Performance Hawaii, is a resource created to further transparency and accountability through governance. Data sets that feed Open Performance Hawaii are found on the site under Data.Hawaii.Gov. Some are as old as 2013, while others are from 2017. The age of the data varies from category to category. The datasets can be accessed by the public to create programs and reports but are less useful as they age.


The state’s Aloha+ Challenge Dashboard site provides data on six interconnected statewide sustainability goals with an achievement date of 2030. The dashboards presented here fall into the categories of Clean Energy, Local Food Production, Natural Resource Management, Solid Waste Reduction, Smart Sustainable Communities and Green Workforce & Education. These dashboards cover a range of years from 2013 to 2016 and, in some cases, 2017. Some give the public valuable benchmarks on a range of critical issues.


It should be noted the older the data, the less relevant and useful it is. And it’s disheartening to see the location for local food production provides no data at all. To perform their intended function, this data needs to be kept up to date.


Unfortunately, the State of Hawaii Dashboard and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Dashboard are only current up to 2013 for most of the categories presented. Significantly, the dashboards provide a transparent view of the situation, good or bad. Clearly showing the areas where improvement is needed exemplifies how open data can help guide decision makers and inform the way funding and other resources are allocated. But to be truly effective guides, dashboards need to be kept up to date.


Moreover, when we see a dashboard, such as Increase Government Accountability and Transparency, which did not meet the target established, we are left wondering if any remedial action is being taken. We would like to see this valuable tool updated and additional information provided to show what is being done to achieve the agreed upon goals and objectives.  Unless the government consistently values data as a decision-making tool for all departments, the possible efficiencies and benefits will never be fully realized.


At THG we are committed to information-driven policy. These dashboards are the public view of what state government is accomplishing. We hope those who manage the State of Hawaii and OHA dashboards will move quickly to ensure the public and our elected officials have a current view of where we stand on the many challenges faced by the state.

The Open Data Movement Is Growing
But it will take commitment by officials and demands by the public to transform government.

By Christine Sakuda


The data continuously collected and stored by government agencies can become a tool for dramatic positive change, but only if it’s made available to those with the ability to organize it and meaningfully package it.

Once this resource is tapped and packaged, it can be leveraged to improve the quality of life for Hawaii residents, enhance the way government functions and enable citizens to better understand how agencies and departments are operating as a result of improvements in transparency and accountability.

Michael Flowers, the Chief Analytics Officer of New York City, noted that governments have a huge fire hose of information, but a fire hose is only valuable when it’s pointed at a fire. Collecting information about traffic patterns in a file is not helpful by itself, but becomes more valuable when transportation planners use the information to redesign traffic patterns.

This was the Hawaii Tax Department’s receiving and sorting section during tax season a few years ago. The state has made some progress coming into the digital era, but much more work is needed to make public information easily accessible and meaningful.

But what really matters is not the digital file, or the traffic patterns, but the outcomes. Using traffic data in planning can cut down on commute times, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, even as it’s used to create crosswalks and bike lanes that decrease the incidents of car and truck accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. Using data intelligently can undoubtedly help us live more efficient, cleaner and safer lives.

Open data is the term used to describe making the information collected by organizations available for wider use. It is increasingly being leveraged by state government in Hawaii for the benefit of everyone interacting with government and using the services it provides, from transportation to camping in state parks to monitoring criminal activity near homes and workplaces.

The Honolulu Police Department’s crime map provides a good example of how information can be gathered, organized and put into a graphical presentation to help individual citizens become more aware of risks to their property and personal safety.

The department has taken data on various types of crimes and plotted the incidence of each criminal activity on an interactive crime map, where members of the public can enter a street address, zip code or landmark and see icons representing the crimes that have occurred in the vicinity of any location.

Open data can be especially useful when several agencies are working on the same issue. Too often, government agencies operate in silos. The challenges this creates are exemplified in collaborative planning on issues, like homelessness.

In many states and cities, officials from a variety of agencies interact with the homeless, collecting data about their situations and needs. All too often, these workers are not able to enter that information into a single database as they collect it. Instead, individual outreach workers keep their own files in systems that are not interconnected, as a rule.

A state system that many are familiar with but may not think of as an open-data operation is the Campaign Spending Commission reporting system, which provides transparency into Hawaii political campaigns. The site aggregates data on candidate contributions and expenditures, as well as making public the political donations to and expenditures by campaign organizations. The commission website gives the public access to a database that reveals who is contributing to each candidate.

Since every agency collects and maintains data, open data initiatives can be implemented to provide transparency and accountability by tracking the progress or lack of progress on government activities, from road maintenance and the rail project to education outcomes and reporting on pesticide usage.

The state maintains a website of public dashboards, Open Performance Hawaii, which provides a snapshot of how the administration and state agencies are performing. The site also provides access to data sets behind the dashboards for developers interested in developing apps and additional dashboards.

The State of Hawaii Dashboard on the Open Performance Hawaii website is a necessary step towards providing the public with information that facilitates transparency and knowledge. Unfortunately, most data on the State of Hawaii Dashboard is three to four years old, with original metrics not being updated and goals not clearly stated, making it difficult to gauge an agency’s progress.

According to its own dashboard, the state did not reach its open and transparent data targets and needs to commit more resources and work harder at both providing timely data and public dashboards in order to be truly useful and meet the open and transparent goals it espouses and that the public demands.

This is a beginning that needs to be further developed to provide a comprehensive look at progress in a range of areas.

Open data can address many challenges here in Hawaii, but it will take commitment by elected officials, public sector employees and public demand to transform the way government operates.

About the Author:
Christine Sakuda is the executive director of Transform Hawaii Government, a nonprofit organization focused on modernizing the state government’s aging IT infrastructure.


With cybersecurity threats now emerging as a household worry, state government has been opening eyes to the nagging problems stemming from attacks.


Multiple workshops throughout October have been devoted to alerting the public to the menacing ways of cyberattacks. Examples include cyberattacks taking down internet service for the U.S. mainland’s East Coast and becoming a scourge to various businesses across the nation.


Drawing statewide attention to these and other familiar threats has been a key focus of “Cyber Security Awareness Month,” which was proclaimed in early October by Gov. David Y. Ige.


Hour-long cyber safety sessions at public libraries and shopping centers have focused on a wide range of topics, including malware protection, passwords and wi-fi usage. Among other topics were online shopping, banking, scams, phishing, data backup and social media.


“Educating our community about cyber security issues and how to protect themselves in our technology-driven world is vital,” said State Librarian Stacey Aldrich. “The Hawaii Public Library System is happy to be a part of this important learning opportunity.”


Others that have been raising awareness about cyber safety throughout the month include the Hawaii Department of Defense Office of Homeland Security and local nonprofit Cyber Hui.


For cyber safety tips and other resources, visit the state Office of Homeland Security’s newly launched Cyber Awareness website (ohs.hawaii.gov/cyber).

Photo Credit: Viridian Weapon Technologies


A small police department in Minneapolis is adding an increasingly popular transparency tool to its ability to protect and serve the public.


The West Hennepin Public Safety Department, based in the Minneapolis suburb of Independence — a city with a population of about 3,500 — will soon be among the first in the country to test gun-mounted cameras on its 10 officers.


But don’t expect to see this high-tech solution in Hawaii any time soon. “The Honolulu Police Department has no plans to adopt gun-mounted cameras,” said Michelle Yu, spokesperson for the department.


In Minneapolis, the police department’s decision to experiment with body-worn cameras comes with the risks associated with being an early adopter as it expects to soon begin testing the cameras, which mount on firearm rails.


The gun-mounted cameras are advertised as lightweight — they’re about 3 ounces — and cheaper than body cameras. Their cost is projected to be about $500 per unit for five years of use by an officer, compared to an approximate $3,000 projection for a body camera within the same time period.


The technology is also being touted as a means of circumventing one of the biggest technical challenges surrounding body-worn cameras, which create data management issues by constantly racking up thousands of hours of footage that is subject to public data requests, and requires departments to procure specialized redaction software and data storage.


Another key benefit of gun-mounted cameras is that they’re not as likely to have their view blocked by an officer’s arms or other obstacles, though this and other functionality is expected to be proven out in the department’s testing. The department is expected to test a variety of scenarios, including low-light, no-light, bright light, and cold weather.