Until now, State Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia has been in relatively low profile. But that changed on Friday in the big conference room on the Fifth Floor of the Square Building. Friday was a special gathering of the tech industry, people who would be interested and excited by a new information technology plan for the state. And they were.
Sonny got here last year. He's in a special situation created by a grant from Pierre Omidyar, working directly with the governor's office to rebuild out state IT infrastructure. No surprise but rebuilding is long overdue. He has found a system fragmented to say the least, and in general decline, with disparate systems that range into their fourth decade.
In September 2011, the state released a comprehensive assessment of its IT assets, policies and procedures in what was called a baseline report. The baseline report identified 204 business functions and services delivered by state government employees in 18 Departments and over 500 IT applications currently in use. Talk about fragmentation.
Sonny spoke of the efforts he and his four assistants have been making to try to understand what the state has and what will it take to put Humpty together again. It's obvious that finding a path to a transformational solution will take a lot more time, effort, and money. Sonny said he felt he could do the job in well say 10 years, even though in other places it might be done faster.
Computers and networks don't grow on trees. He and the government both want this system to be the best in the world with open access to public information, open data he calls it, and at the same time with the appropriate controls. There's a lot of hardware and there's a lot of software involved. It's not as if you can call Dell and ask them to ship over a truckload of terminals and servers and that’s that. It has to be planned, integrated and programmed.
We were all rooting for him and will root for him in hopes that the legislature will support him and fund him next year and in the years to follow so that he will have adequate staff and resources to do it right. This won’t be chump change – over time, hundreds of millions.
What a change this will be for Hawaii's image; from grass skirts to world class government IT, and why not? We have the will and we know what we need; hopefully we can find the money and stay focused on it. Talk about jobs, great jobs too.
The process will be grand. The people involved will learn so much. The government will be improved and made more efficient in so many ways us. What a blessing that will be. Hopefully, the public will come along and the unions won't stand in the way. We can come out on top with a new image and a new way of doing representative government. New computer systems transform their owners, and this is as transformative of any initiative we've seen.
Pierre Omidyar gets kudos for enabling this. Neil Abercrombie, too, for having the vision to see its value. We look forward to hearing much more about Sonny's project. We look forward to seeing the changes fall into place, seeing the successes tumble out at us and improve our civic life, and most ultimately seeing the state rise to new efficiency. It can’t happen soon enough.
The press wasn't there but will undoubtedly pick up on this and raise public awareness about it. If we're going to spend $6 billion on rail then surely we can spend a fraction of that on the core functionality of our government, something that will do far more to improve our economy and keep our kids at home. All things considered, this is the initiative that will give us most bang for our buck. Let's press ahead with alacrity. Sonny, we’re counting on you.
As promised at the meeting on Friday, the Governor’s office then released a draft IT Transformation Strategy, and encouraged the public to provide ideas and feedback, recognizing the need for socialization in a project of this nature, and demonstrating the state’s commitment to creating an open and transparent government.
Want to see the draft? Check the Office of Information Management and Technology’s website (http://www.hawaii.gov/oimt).
“The state’s business and information technology transformation strategy establishes the foundation for a fundamental re-thinking of the way government conducts business,” Sonny said. “The transformation is not about just modernizing legacy technology systems. It is about transforming the state’s current business processes. Naturally, technology will play a significant role in enabling this transformation and the new way of how we deliver programs and services to citizens and businesses in Hawaii. We have a lot to change and improve but we are taking important foundational and methodical steps to get to a New Day.”
That’s pretty ambitious, and promises that this will be a mighty effort by the Abercrombie administration. Let’s be sure to stay tuned.
Comments on the draft will be taken through Friday, June 1. Feedback will be considered by OIMT and incorporated into the final version of the IT Transformation Strategic Plan that will be published in July. If you have any ideas, whether you work for the state or not, go for it.