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Will Hawaii Get a Full-Time CIO?

Report findings highlight various ways the Hawaii government can upgrade outdated technology systems to improve efficiency.

Photo: Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, right

Hawaii needs a full-time chief information officer to manage statewide IT strategic planning and oversee procurement processes -- one of several recommendations included in a recent report by a task force that studied ways to make the state more efficient.

With a looming $721 million budget shortfall, Hawaii has been desperately searching for viable solutions to streamline public services. The 10-member Task Force on Reinventing Government was established by the Legislature to identify government weak spots and find ways to increase productivity and efficiency.

Released last month, the task force report outlines recommendations for various IT and procurement reforms: replacing old management systems with electronic information systems in the education sector; streamlining fiscal and permitting procedures in projects that enhance land and natural resources; establishing a private sector task force to bolster health IT operations, among others.

Currently the head of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) serves as the CIO and Comptroller. But the report's final recommendation calls for a separation of the two jobs. The new CIO position would have responsibilities that include supervising the Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD), chairing a monthly governance committee made up of all state senior IT CIOs, and consolidating ICSD hardware, operating software, related positions and budgets for all executive-level state IT and communications, to name a few.

Gov. Linda Lingle stated that the government has made strides to provide e-government services to citizens, and many of the task force's recommendations align with her administration's agenda.

"But substantial progress is still needed, particularly integrating information systems," Lingle said last week in a statement about the task force's report. "I particularly appreciate the support for our Administration's efforts to establish a chief information officer to oversee and upgrade state information technology systems."

Hawaii joins a growing number of states that are reassessing the role of their top IT official as part of a larger effort to save money. Late last year Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced a plan that will merge the state's Management and Budget department with the Department of Information Technology; state CIO Ken Theis will manage the consolidated department. Iowa lawmakers currently are mulling an IT consolidation plan that includes elevating the CIO to a Cabinet-level post. And this week California moved its technology consolidation forward with an executive order that will give the CIO more authority to capture expenditure data in individual agencies.

The Hawaii task force, comprised of business and community leaders, nonprofit organizations and agency directors, met six times between October 2009 and January 2010. The group was chaired by First Hawaiian Bank Chairman Don Horner. Lingle called the task force's ideas for improving government operations "well thought out" and urged the Legislature to "seriously examine these proposals." Even with the state's projected budget shortfall, the report notes that the task force identified strategies that may not cut costs, but could boost productivity in state government.

"The task force considered that the current economic crisis presents an opportunity for improvement," according to the report, "and it noted that its mission is not necessarily about cutting costs, but rather it is about creating more efficiency among employees and processes so that increased productivity follows."