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.


In a potentially significant step, the top executive at Transform Hawaii Government has a major new platform to get key messages across for her non-profit organization.


Christine Sakuda, who has been at the helm of Transform Hawaii Government since May, will be contributing periodic columns to the “Community Voices” section of the Honolulu Civil Beat.


Her columns will appear about five times a year and focus on ensuring that Hawaii officials are embracing the digital age with a renewed sense of urgency.


Hawaii is at least 20 years behind other states in its business process and information technology (IT) capabilities. Current systems were designed at a time when the personal computer was a new invention and have outlived their usefulness and life cycles.


Among the expected topics for the column will be to call on the state government for a commitment to consistently make the investment necessary for it to better engage citizens and businesses in this technology-driven world. That number comes out to at least 1 percent of the state’s annual budget over the next 10 years, which is about 2 percentage points below the investment other states typically make in their IT systems.


“Happy you guys want to contribute to Civil Beat,” said Editor Patti Epler. “I think it would be great to have Community Voices on this topic.”


The column will be the latest communications channel for Transform Hawaii Government. Others include Facebook, website and a newsletter.


The column will be written at a time when the state is taking steps to modernize its aging IT infrastructure. Examples include going paperless, consolidating nine different email systems for state employees and modernizing payroll and tax technologies in state government.


From Transform Hawaii Government’s perspective, all would be innovative solutions that could transform the way state government does business.

Pod Squad: Meet The Guy Who’s Trying To Modernize Hawaii Government

Hawaii’s chief information officer talks about the challenges of upgrading the state’s antiquated technology systems.

By Emilie Dugdale

Listen to full postcast on Civil Beat’s Pod Squad.

Hawaii Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy chats with Pod Squad host Chad Blair about going paperless, consolidating nine different email systems and modernizing payroll and tax technology in a state government that is dramatically behind the times.

Todd Nacapuy has been Hawaii’s chief information officer since May 2015.

By Anna Hrushka
Pacific Business News

Christine Sakuda, executive director of Transform Hawaii Government. Photo by Tina Yuen

Christine Sakuda, executive director of Transform Hawaii Government. Photo by Tina Yuen

Christine Sakuda was recently named executive director of Transform Hawaii Government, a nonprofit organization that supports initiatives aimed at improving the transparency, accountability and efficiency in state government.


Before joining THG, Sakuda was executive director of the Hawaii Health Information Exchange.


PBN caught up with Sakuda to discuss her goals for the five-year-old organization, which counts local business leaders such as First Hawaiian Bank Chairman and CEO Bob Harrison, Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira and Hawaii Community Foundation CEO Micah Kane among its board members.


What will be the biggest challenge in taking on this new role?

The biggest challenge for me would be to make sure that the need for IT transformation within state government remains a top priority. When Transform Hawaii Government did some initial studies in about 2011, a partnership with the state at the time, it realized that state infrastructure was about 20 to 30 years behind. Therefore, it became apparent that the importance of supporting information technology transformation within state government is imperative. State services and state departments need good information to make good decisions. They share information between the departments and they also share information with the public. Technology changes at a rapid pace. The information technology plan is very important to revisit on a regular basis and ensure that we continue to meet progress.


How does Hawaii’s government technology infrastructure compare to other states?

In some areas, it’s made progress and in other areas it’s in the process of putting plans in place. The state right now is implementing a tax system modernization and that’s good because that’s going to impact the business community. It has accomplished statewide electronic signing of documents. The Legislature is almost completely electronic in terms of bill tracking. We’ve spent a lot of time investing in security because we’re in the middle of the Pacific and it’s important to have secure technology infrastructure. That being said, there are always areas to improve on. And those are the areas that I’m trying to understand a lot better and how THG can raise awareness on the importance of technology investment.


How important is it to have local business leaders on THG’s board? As leaders in their industry, I think they understand the importance of secure and responsive information systems that inform and support business priorities. The state runs like a business, too. It delivers services and it’s held accountable just like private business is held accountable. So, I think it’s very important. I do see it as an opportunity with their perspective to look for ways of establishing a greater collaboration with the state and really helping us advance this initiative. I believe that it’s important for the business community to support THG and THG to convey why that support is important. Again, the government does run businesses and services. As citizens, we all benefit from that and we benefit from an open and transparent, responsive, government just like any business.

As leaders in their industry, I think they understand the importance of secure and responsive information systems that inform and support business priorities. The state runs like a business, too. It delivers services and it’s held accountable just like private business is held accountable. So, I think it’s very important. I do see it as an opportunity with their perspective to look for ways of establishing a greater collaboration with the state and really helping us advance this initiative. I believe that it’s important for the business community to support THG and THG to convey why that support is important. Again, the government does run businesses and services. As citizens, we all benefit from that and we benefit from an open and transparent, responsive, government just like any business.

In the latest example of Hawaii’s efforts to embrace smart technologies, the state government is working with a leading customer relationship management (CRM) company to strengthen the overall experience of its online sites and services.


Among the first sites developed in-house by the state on the Salesforce platform was the Hawaii Agriculture & Food Products Database, unveiled by the state Department of Agriculture (DOA) during the Hawaii Agriculture Conference in August.

With the goal of improving its IT modernization efforts, the database provides more comprehensive access farmers and ranchers in Hawaii. It also aims to connect the world to the manufacturers that add value to Hawaii-grown products to create goods that showcase Hawaii agriculture.

“The Salesforce platform was selected after ETS evaluated several of the industry’s top CRM platforms,” said Todd Nacapuy, state chief information officer. “While this does not preclude departments and agencies from procuring alternatives, our intention is to focus development of state employee skillsets. In the interest of transparency, this also communicates to all IT service providers an area of opportunity, that the state will likely require services relating to the platform in the future.”

The site was developed collaboratively by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the state Office of Enterprise Technology Services. The site concept was primarily based on solutions identified at the 2016 Hawaii Annual Code Challenge.

Other smart technologies from last year’s code challenge are being developed for the CRM platform and scheduled for launch this year.

In addition, the Office of Enterprise Technology Services will be conducting an evaluation of existing sites and apps that could use an “upgrade” by relaunching them on the platform.  The evaluation is expected to be concluded by Dec. 1.

The CRM tool was approved by the IT Steering Committee, which assists the state CIO in developing IT standards and policies.