State government IT system moves into digital age

Sanjeev Bhagowalia
Sanjeev Bhagowalia

Antiquated, unstable, and overdue for a major failure.

The state's first-ever, full-time Chief Information Officer warns that Hawaii's government technology and computer systems lag decades behind where we should be - leading to costly mistakes and inefficiency.

The good news, though: plans are in place to move state government from the dark ages to the digital age.

They're pushing a lot of paper at the state government data center in Honolulu - somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million papers processed each month! "We are overdue for a major failure because you cannot survive like this," says Hawaii C.I.O. Sanjeev Bhagowalia. "I think this is just Russian roulette, what's happening here."

What's happening is an outdated, disjointed government computer and technology system that's endured 30 years of under-investment. There are more than 740 different databases and computer systems within state departments and dozens of related entities, and Bhagowalia's team has come up with a 1,400 page plan for integrating and streamlining them. The human resources system, for instance, is five versions behind in software upgrades, and the state's employee payroll system has never been computerized. There's an urgency to modernize.

"Just imagine how the productivity will increase. You do it once in the system, as opposed to going through all this paper and calculators and things in carbon paper. Carbon paper, really?" Bhagowalia says, incredulously.

A year-and-a-half ago, Bhagowalia came on board to transform the state government's entire I-T system. He says the plan will fundamentally change the way the state's 40,000 employees do business, in areas like HR, payroll, time and attendance, and budget and finance, to name just a few.

"Now we can leapfrog all those other old technologies. We can skip the era of the cassette and CD and DVD. We can go straight to the new function of the Cloud."

The legislature appropriated $25 million this fiscal year for I-T initiatives. Governor Neil Abercrombie is asking for $60 million more in each of the next two years, and more commitment will be needed down the road for further I-T improvements.

For more information or to see the entire IT plan for state government, you can log onto

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