A new information network is putting the collective wisdom of public sector IT agencies within reach of their colleagues and trying to solve some of the big problems that vex government.

by Theo Douglas, Government Technology

Screenshot of Government Digital Transformation Exchange

In this GovTech story, read about a new online portal that aims to boost the innovative process and empower collaboration by creating a place for those working on technologically innovative projects for government to share experiences and best practices in a format adapted for use by all. READ FULL STORY

Hawaii’s tech minds take on food traceability, ag-crimes, and farmer training language barriers

AGathon group photo

Team Harvest Vision took first place at Hawaii’s premier AGathon on Sunday, Jan .14. Photo courtesy of Facebook: Sen. Mike Gabbard

After an intense two weeks of planning and coding, Hawaii technology innovators on Jan. 14 filled Impact Hub Honolulu – laptops in hand. Each teams’ representatives were poised to pitch thoughtfully crafted concepts, some already in the proofs-of-concept stage, to a panel of judges convened for the AGathon, Hawaii’s first agriculture-tech hackathon.

The AGathon was held to bring the burgeoning world of digital innovation into the age-old practice of local food production to address problems confronting Hawaii today. The event kickedoff on Jan. 6 at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Waipahu, followed by an all-day hackathon Jan. 13 and “Demo Day and Awards” on Jan. 14 at Impact Hub Honolulu.

Presented by Hawaii Open Data and the state’s Hawaii Technology Development Corporation, Transform Hawaii Government was proud to support the inaugural event, along with co-sponsors Elemental Excelerator, Ulupono Initiative, and Whitmore Economic Development Group.

As intended, the AGathon successfully sparked the development of concepts for making information easily digestible and diverging from long paper-based manuals; ultimately, so farmers are able to spend more of their time growing crops, minimizinf food waste and contributing to meeting Hawaii’s local sustainable food needs.

Food Traceability Pitch

Luisa Castro, DoA Food Safety Program Manager, delivers her food traceability challenge to programmers during the kickoff event on Jan. 6, 2018.

Additional benefits are the opportunities this presents for improving interaction between farmers and government agencies as well as how those agencies manage data. With increasing compliance regulations, lack of timely and easily interpretable data hampers the efforts of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DoA) and its partners in propelling the industry toward effective data-driven decision-making and outreach. Even while some areas are rife with aggregated data due to years of information collection, making sense of the broader situation remains a cumbersome challenge without responsive and dynamic analysis tools. Other barriers include remote locations, lack of internet connectivity, as well as potential language barriers from laborers add complexity to the agency’s technological needs.

First place team Harvest Vision impressed judges with a demo of their artificial intelligence software using a camera to recognize ripe coffee berries. As noted in a recent story in Pacific Business News, Harvest Vision received interest from local coffee producer Kauai Coffee Company, which is looking to implement the technology in 2018.

Harvest Vision PC Christopher Nguyen

First place winner Harvest Vision’s concept employs an API that uses machine learning to support harvest operations. Photo courtesy of Devpost, Christopher Nguyen.

Congratulations to Harvest Vision and the other inaugural AGathon winners:

  • First Place: Harvest Vision – an application programming interface (API) that uses machine learning to harvest coffee efficiently.
  • Second Place: Farm Safe – an app designed to explain farming and safety practices to non-English-speaking farmers in their native language.
  • Third Place: Follow the ‘Aina – a solution used for food traceability.


IT Roadmap

The state recently unveiled its IT Roadmap online dashboard. Image Courtesy of the Office of Enterprise Technology Services

One of the most significant milestones of 2017 in the areas of state IT governance and budget transparency was the unveiling of the statewide IT Roadmap. Located on the Office of Enterprise Technology Services’ (ETS) website (ets.hawaii.gov), the online resource was developed through extensive coordination with various departments and agencies within the state executive branch with the goal of creating a more accessible, cohesive and transparent dashboard for state and public use.

The statewide IT Roadmap was developed in accordance with section 27-43, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which requires state departments to create and maintain multi-year IT strategic plans and roadmaps. It serves as part of ongoing efforts by ETS’ IT Governance team to improve the state’s IT governance processes.

ETS anticipates that the implementation of the IT Roadmap will serve as a valuable tool for the overall long-term development, financial planning and execution of all significant IT activities within the executive branch. In addition, it will facilitate efforts to deploy appropriate resources efficiently in support of current large enterprise projects, such as the tax system and payroll modernization initiatives. For the public, the roadmap serves as a valuable tool for monitoring state projects, ongoing developments, budgets and schedules.

To learn more about and track current state IT projects, explore the IT Roadmap online dashboard at ets.hawaii.gov under the Department Dashboard section.

Hawaii State Public Library

The Hawaii State Library located in Downtown Honolulu. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Hawaii State Library System recently was awarded the distinguished Silver W3 award in its class, outshining more than 5,000 candidates for its innovation, user-friendly design and creativity.

Developed in partnership with Hawaii Information Consortium LLC, the award-winning website has set the bar for library websites around the country. The State Library site features personal stories and experiences, as well as the positive impact the library has had on people’s lives.

HI State Libraries website

Visit the Hawaii State Library System homepage at www.librarieshawaii.org

Additionally, the website promotes a variety of services and community events, offers its digital visitors the opportunity to connect with staff via the “Ask a Librarian” feature, and provides book recommendations from staff and study tools for youth and students. The website is also mobile device-friendly for people on the go and contains links to state and federal resources.

To experience the award-winning website for yourself, visit the Hawaii State Library System at https://www.librarieshawaii.org/ and share your own story.

By Christine Sakuda, THG Executive Director

False Missle Alert : Reuters Hugh Gentry

A combination photograph shows screenshots from a cell phone displaying an alert for a ballistic missile launch and the subsequent false alarm message in Hawaii, Jan. 13, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry


I was getting breakfast ready for my family on the morning of Jan. 13 when I received the emergency text alert, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

By the time the official “false alarm” text was issued 38 minutes later, I had already made calls to other family members throughout Hawaii, extended “I love you(s),” and exchanged hugs with those whom we were with. Alerts also came in from my children’s schools over the rapidly unfolding situation as individuals and agencies alike sought clarity and definitive confirmation of an “all clear.”

Looking back, that Saturday’s mishap and the events that followed were keen reminders of the importance of the “people process” in any system, regardless of technological platform or application. While we may have technology at our fingertips, it is the human interaction with technology that can be the weak link.  Modernization of outdated systems includes people’s adaptation of meaningful processes that takes advantage of  technology.  This requires constant vigilance to keep pace with technology’s rapid evolution. Developing people processes to adapt and manage technology in a meaningful way is often the greatest challenge to any modernization effort.

Recognizing that our state can do better, the governor has directed Brig. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, deputy adjutant general of the Hawaii Department of Defense, to review the current emergency response system. This will include notifications and warnings, as well as recommendations for improvement. An initial action plan will be provided no later than Feb. 13, with a final report no later than March 15.

Looking further ahead, it is encouraging that last summer Hawaii was one of the first states in the nation to opt-in to FirstNet, a first-responder network that, once built, will use advanced technologies to enable fire, police, EMS, emergency management and other public safety personnel to communicate and share information. FirstNet, or First Responder Network Authority, is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce, authorized by Congress in 2012 to develop, build and operate the nationwide network. Although opting in was only the first step, and the network – which now includes 56 territories and states – remains to be developed and launched, FirstNet represents the next evolution in modern emergency notifications.

“As is frequently noted by those most experienced with modernizing systems, updating the technology is the often-easy part, but updating processes can simultaneous present both the greatest risks and greatest opportunities.”

In the meantime, like many others I look forward to a clear-headed and thoughtful analysis of what happened on Jan. 13 and recommendations on where current processes and technology can be improved. It is our hope lessons will be learned about the importance of not only testing but questioning the testing processes as government strives to keep pace with technology and the new ways citizens obtain their information in the digital age. As is frequently noted by those most experienced with modernizing systems, updating the technology is the often-easy part, but updating processes can simultaneous present both the greatest risks and greatest opportunities.

Original story here: https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2018/01/17/kauai-coffee-to-implement-tech-developed-from.html

By: Anna Hrushka

Hawaii’s first agriculture hackathon wrapped up over the weekend, with a local coffee grower planning to implement the technology developed by the competition’s first place finishers.

Kauai Coffee Company General Manager Fred Cowell said he plans to use Harvest Vision’s artificial intelligence camera in its fall harvest this year.

The device, which earned the team a $3,000 first place price, gives immediate harvest data to operators in the field, and was developed through the combined talent of Oceanit Labs, Kauai Coffee and Kamehameha Schools.

Cowell said he anticipates the system would increase coffee fruit recovery with an added value of nearly $250,000 per year.

A total of 10 teams participated in the week-long competition, which kicked off after the Department of Agriculture provided participants with a list of prompts or areas in need of solutions.

A digital app for non-English speaking farmers placed second, and an online data tool that allows farmers to input information and trace problems to an exact source took third.

“Events like this prove that in a short period of time, through bringing people together, we can create solutions,” said Robbie Melton, CEO of the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation, which hosted the event.

Melton said next year she would like to extend the competition’s timeframe, giving participants a longer period to develop their projects.

Sponsors for the event were the State of Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture, HTDC, Ulupono Initiative, the Transform Hawaii Government Coalition, Smart Yields, Whitmore Economic Development Group and Hawaii Open Data.

“It’s critically important for us to support these types of events,” said Transform Hawaii Government Executive Director Christine Sakuda, who also judged the competition. “We are always advocates of finding real world applications to help solve some of the state’s challenges.”

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.