Hawaii Boasts Technology Progress, Announces New CIO

Hawaii has come a long way since Sonny Bhagowalia was appointed the state's first CIO in 2011, the governor said in a press conference.

by / February 10, 2014
(l to r) Deputy CIO Randy Baldemor, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Deputy CIO Keone Kali and CIO Sonny Bhagowalia at the state's press conference Feb. 10. ustream.tv

Over the past few years, Hawaii has made significant changes when it comes to IT -- something Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed as a technological victory for the state on Feb. 10, when he also announced the appointment of a new CIO.

When the state appointed its first CIO in 2011, it was “hopelessly behind,” Abercrombie said during a press conference -- but Hawaii is now positioned to compete with the technology in any federal or state agency, he said.

And moving forward, state CIO Sonny Bhagowalia will become the governor's chief advisor for technology and cybersecurity, Deputy CIO Keone Kali will become state CIO, and Deputy CIO Randy Baldemor will become director of strategic initiatives in the governor’s office.

All four officials took the microphone and provided a brief overview of the state’s recent progress. “This is the culmination of three years of effort,” Abercrombie said. “[This is] kind of the third increment of what we hope to be seven increments of advancement from ground zero in information technology. We are so proud of these folks and the whole team that’s associated with them. We’ve come from the wilderness of total inadequacy when it comes to information technology. We're not just making progress, we're making giant strides.”

The governor was referring to Bhagowalia’s 12-year plan, released in 2011, to get the state back on track with technology. Previously the state was struggling with the upkeep of 30 year-old fragmented systems, but it is now on track to become competitive in the coming years, the governor said.

In recent memory, the state passed an open data initiative, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle, Bhagowalia said. The state has now released 1,144 open data sets, modernized 18 websites, created 63 mobile apps for more than 100 services, he added. “We have done nothing less than transform government."

The state’s 12-year plan was a response to the fact that the state was only spending 1.4 percent of the annual budget on technology, while most states invest at least 2 to 3 percent, and industry best practices suggest spending between 3 and 5 percent of the annual budget to be the most efficient. The plan is composed of seven phases and has three main focus areas: streamlining the state's 743 discrete agencies, using shared services across the enterprise, and establishing an oversight policy to properly manage the organization.

The initial planning phases are now complete, and it’s time for the organization to really make things happen, Bhagowalia said. The state's tech team is now offering student internships to allow students to be part of the state’s technology transformation; they have established 99.8 percent network uptime; and their bandwidth connectivity has improved greatly and will continue to improve, he said. They are now looking into building data centers locally to decrease reliance on the mainland, negotiating better connectivity and data rates on the islands and to the mainland, and also launching GIS services to support many of the government’s citizen services.

He also added that they’re getting ready for FirstNet, the upcoming first responder network, and creating dashboards that allow the state better situational awareness.

Kali briefly thanked everyone for their hard work, and Baldemor talked about his work on the state’s ERP system.

“This is basically a highway for our state, to be able to move information and integrate information across the seven core systems of our state,” Baldemor said, adding that the work they’re doing in this area will improve the working conditions of government workers, improve connectivity with the public, and make everyone more efficient and productive.

A recording of the press conference is available on Ustream.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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