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Is Hawaii a Candidate for International ICT Assistance?

Taking stock of Hawaii's information and communications technology management and environment

Try a search engine query on "Hawaii CIO," or "Hawaii Chief Information Officer." You might get a couple corporate links pop up, or possibly the University of Hawaii's CIO link, but the only state agency within the first two pages of links is for the Information and Communications Services Division of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS). The first impression, once hitting the Hawaii Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD) landing page on the State of Hawaii's website, is the microwave tower graphic.

The Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) of the Department of Accounting and General Services is the lead agency for information technology in the Executive Branch. It is responsible for comprehensively managing the information processing and telecommunication systems in order to provide services to all agencies of the State of Hawaii. The ICSD plans, coordinates, organizes, directs, and administers services to insure the efficient and effective development of systems.

Information and Communications Technology in HawaiiIn fact, the Hawaii CIO, as appointed by the governor in 2004, acts in this capacity as a part time job, as his "day job" is comptroller of the State. In that role, the only true function managed within the ICSD is oversight of the state's main data center.

Browsing through the ICSD site is quite interesting. Having spent a fair amount of time drilling through California's CIO landing page, where you are greeted with a well stocked mashup of not less than 14 interactive objects giving access to topics from current news, to blog entries, to CIO department links, to instructions on following the CIO's activities through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (all meetings and public activities are recorded and made available to the 'Ether), I expected a similar menu of objects on the Hawaii page. Clearly Hawaii is a much smaller state, so expectations were set, but I did expect a fairly good semaphore of directions I could take to learn more about Hawaii's office of the CIO.

Hot Buttons on the ICSD Landing Page

My vision of a governmental CIO was defined by Vivek Kundra, CIO of the United States. A guy who talks about the future of ICT, the strategy of applying ICT to government projects, the leadership, both in thoughts and actions, or the government as a role model for the rest of the country. Cloud computing, data center consolidation, green technology, R&D, cooperation with the private sector, aggressive use of COTS (common of-the-shelf) technology. I love the guy.

NOTE: ICT is a term unfamiliar to most Americans. It means "Information and Communications Technology," and is a term most other countries around the world have adopted to acknowledge the critical role communications plays in any information technology discussion.

So I select the button on IT Standards. Cool. Being a cloud computing enthusiast, to put it mildly, I could not help pinging on the item for 11.17 Virtual Storage Access Method, with the expectation this might give me some insight on the cloud computing and virtualization initiatives Hawaii is taking under the guidance of either the CIO or ICSD.

VSAM is an IBM/MVS Operating System access method system. It is not a data base management system. VSAM supports batch users, on-line transactions, and data base applications. (VSAM Entry on ICSD website)

Multiple Virtual Storage, more commonly called MVS, was the most commonly used operating system on the System/370 and System/390
IBM mainframe computers. It was developed by IBM, but is unrelated to IBM's other mainframe operating system, VM. (Wikipedia)

Great Symbol of the State of HawaiiMVS? You mean the MVS used in the 1970s?

Ooops. Well, how about an overview of IT Standards? Written in 2003, the document is general cut and paste information that could be found in pretty much any basic IT book, with the exception that everything is manual – meaning any standard, recommendation, or update must be done through use of CD-ROM. Well, perhaps document management and approval process doesn't need to be online.

Enough – I am not excited by the ICSD website. Let's look at a couple other areas that might provide a bit more information on how Hawaii is doing with topics like overall IT architecture, disaster recovery, and IT strategies.

"The CIO's role is to provide vision and leadership for developing and implementing information technology initiatives." (Info-Tech Research Group)

In a recent report delivered by the Hawaii state auditor, "Audit of the State of Hawai'i's Information Technology: Who's in Charge?" - a disturbing summary of the auditor's findings declare:

  1. The State's IT leaders provide weak and ineffective management.
  2. The State no longer has a lead agency for information technology.

The audit further finds the guidance and governance provided by the ICSD ineffective, stating:

"ICSD was originally tasked to compile an overall State technology plan from annual technology plans submitted by the various departments. However, ICSD no longer enforces or monitors compliance with this requirement. In fact, the division has actively discouraged departments from submitting these distributed information processing and information resource management plans."

Finally, the report concludes with an ominous message for the state

"If the State's management does not improve, the State will eventually be compelled to outsource or co-source IT functions, a complicated and expensive undertaking. Based on the issues that have been raised, future focus areas include data security and business continuity. Lack of an alternate data center and general lack of business continuity and disaster recovery plans tempt fate, since a major disruption of State IT services is not a matter of if, but when."

If you would like some more interesting food for controversy, dig into the state's disaster recovery situation, which was recently summarized with the statement "a breakdown of or interruption to data center services or telecommunication services will seriously diminish the ability of State (of Hawaii) agencies to deliver critical services to the public and other federal, state, and local government agencies. The primary data center serves all three branches of State government. The loss of the primary data center would impact all State employees, and without an alternative data center, health, public safety, child protective services, homeland security and other critical services would not be delivered"

How International Organizations Might Help Hawai'I's ICT and eGovernment Program

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A surge in the use of ICTs by government, civil society and the private sector started in the late 1990s, with the aim not only of improving government efficiency and service delivery, but also to promote increase participation of citizens in the various governance and democratic processes. The use of ICT in the overall field of democratic governance activities relates to three distinct areas where UNDP has already been doing innovative work to support the achievement of the MDGs.

  • First, e-governance which encompasses the use of the ICT tool to enhance both government efficiency, transparency, accountability and service delivery, and citizen participation and engagement in the various democratic and governance processes.
  • Second, the mainstreaming of ICT into the various UNDP Democratic Governance Practice service lines such as Parliaments (e-parliaments), elections (e-elections) and others.
  • And third, the governance of the new ICT which addresses the institutional mechanisms related to emerging issues of privacy, security, censorship and control of the means of information and communications at the national and global levels.

That sounds awful darn close to objectives Hawaii might find useful in to developing their own long term, strategic ICT plan. Taking a look at some of the countries listed in UNDP's "UN eGovernment Survey 2008: From eGovernment to Connected Governance," a lot of great government program case studies are included, such as the government of Singapore:

"Similarly, as part justification for ranking Singapore as its 2007 leader in e-government and customer service, Accenture reports that in terms of back-end infrastructure, the Singaporean government has made an enterprise architecture called SGEA a strategic thrust. SGEA offers a blueprint for identifying potential business areas for interagency collaboration as well as technology, data and application standards to facilitate the sharing of information and systems across agencies."

That sounds good. As do a couple dozen other examples of equally relevant eGovernment programs included in the study. In fact, current eGovernment development projects in Vietnam, Indonesia, Ghana, and Palestine follow a well documented plan to design, train, plan, and implement eGovernment projects. And they are working.

Perhaps Hawai'I could hire a full time CIO, participate in US and international programs supporting development of eGovernment (including the US Trade and Development Agency which sponsors eGoverment programs in many developing countries – such as Palestine, Ethiopia, and Ghana), and use that to develop a 22nd century ICT plan for Hawai'i.

The line is drawn

As taxpayers and residents of America's 50th state, we deserve the best possible government and governance possible. Let's take a bit of responsibility on ourselves. Study the issue, contact your representative, and demand either an explanation of the current situation – or even better, give recommendations on how we can make Hawai'i's situation better. Such as:

  1. Hire a professional state CIO
  2. Give the CIO authority
  3. Develop a state-wide ICT plan
  4. Execute

We initially touched the topic in a previous post "A Developing Country that Can Teach Hawaii a Lesson." We'll continue exploring the topic, and hopefully start working on positive, constructive ideas on how we can make our state more efficient, and a better place to work and live.

More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.

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