CIO Profile

CIO Profile

by / April 16, 2002
Courtney Harrington came to the city and county of Honolulu, Hawaii, and encountered archaic desktops, disorganized workflow and an endless amount of paper. During his three-year tenure, he has upgraded the PCs, implemented a four-year workflow overhaul - which will ultimately render the jurisdiction paperless - and hosted advertising online. Backed by Mayor Jeremy Harris and the largest IT department in the state, Harrington has transformed this vacation destination into an IT paradise.

What do you tell jurisdictions that, like Honolulu, are interested in hosting advertisements on their websites to offset costs?
Don't expect Web advertising to pay for the Web site. There's just not enough money out there. I tell them, "You might be able to make (I'm just guessing) $50,000 a year or something." The purpose of our advertising was to keep the convenience fee reasonable for e-commerce. And it accomplished exactly that. I caution people that it may not be as easy to do as they think. We're somewhat lucky in that we're a resort destination and that's of interest to people who do advertising.

Why aren't there ads on your site now?
We had a contract with eGovNet. Their job was to redesign our Web site and put up the e-commerce for us at no charge. This was done during the high-flying days of the dot-com. We have since parted and gone our own way. Those contracts expired and, of course, as we're not with them anymore, there hasn't been anyone out selling [ads]. We are in the process of putting out an RFP to find another company. We will not sell [ads] ourselves. That crosses a line. I expect probably within 60 days [at press time] to have ads back up.

What's been your biggest challenge thus far?
When I came up here three years ago, there wasn't much in the way of new computers out there. People were running 286s and 386s. So I had to replace everybody's PC. That, of course, meant that they all had to be trained. Then our networking and other infrastructure had to be beefed up to handle the extra data. Once all that was in place, we started looking at moving electronic paperwork around the city. We're at the point now where almost everybody has a brand new PC or [one] no older than about 18 months. Our success has been based on a very strong partnership between myself and [Mayor Jeremy Harris]. The mayor is absolutely committed to seeing that we become a virtual city and an electronic city. In the face of a very tight budget, he made sure that we got the money that was necessary for us to start replacing all the PCs on everybody's desk. It's a foundation that is necessary.

What do you spend most of your day on?
(Laughs) Going to meetings. Talking to division chiefs about the Web. I want everything "Webified," so that everybody with a Web browser on their desk can use whatever they need to use. A lot of this is tied very tightly with our intranet. We're moving forward with more e-commerce. We're updating all of the various department sections of our Web site. Most of the time, we're talking policies, directions and philosophies of what we need to do and how we need to get there.