In this episode of Transform Hawaii Government's (THG) Digital Talk Story series, Executive Director Christine Sakuda speaks with House Speaker Scott Saiki about how COVID-19 affected government operations and how we can harness modernization to improve access to government services.
Representative Scott Saiki has worked in the Hawaii House of Representatives for over 25 years. He currently serves as Speaker of the House and is the representative for House District 26, which includes the areas of McCully, Kaheka, Kakaako, and Downtown.
Speaker Saiki shared that as a response to the disruption of in-person public hearings due to the pandemic, the state capitol's IT staff developed a system to hold virtual hearings which allowed the community to stay involved and give remote testimonies. Going forward, Speaker Saiki stated that the House of Representatives will be adopting a hybrid system to allow for both virtual and in-person participation, pending COVID-19 guidelines in the next legislative session.
Another example of IT modernization at work during the pandemic happened at the mass vaccination centers opened up by Hawaii Pacific Health and Queens Medical Center. Through the work of the House Select Committee on COVID-19, chaired by Speaker Saiki, they learned that the WIFI capabilities of the sites were insufficient for their needs. The Committee saw this as a critical issue to address and brought in Hawaiian Telcom to upgrade the infrastructure at Pier 2 and the Neal Blaisdell Center, which allowed the sites to serve the community with greater efficiency.
Speaker Saiki emphasized that the pandemic has shown lawmakers why government modernizing is critical because it enables faster, more reliable delivery of services to the public.
Looking ahead, Speaker Saiki shared that he hopes to see more improvements to our IT system and broadband access. This would greatly benefit our public schools by providing the infrastructure upgrades needed to more effectively manage distance learning and open up opportunities to learn from teachers across the state.
THG extends its appreciation to Speaker Saiki for taking time from his busy schedule to join us to share his thoughts.
Watch Episode 5 of the Digital Talk Story series here.