Editor’s Note: This is an installment in our occasional series, It’s Your Money, that looks more closely at public expenses that taxpayers may not realize they’re being asked to pay.
The state’s technology office is in the process of rolling out a half-million dollar system that allows the governor’s office to better manage thousands of communications from constituents and track bills that are moving through the Legislature.
Hawaii’s Office of Information Management and Technology has paid Lockheed Martin a total of $474,544 over the last year and a half to implement its Intranet Quorum system, which includes software licensing and staff training, according to the state procurement office.
Even though the public is paying for the system, which is expected to be expanded to other state departments in the coming months, it’s strictly for internal government use, said Sonny Bhagowalia, who until last week led the technology office. The governor appointed him as his chief adviser for technology and cyber security last week.
Public access could improve. Bhagowalia said that next year the technology office may look into making the bill tracking system and database of correspondence available to the public, both online and via mobile devices.
Bhagowalia, who described himself as a “big open government advocate,” said that in general the public should have much easier access to government records.
“That’s been my pet peeve,” he said of government technology systems. “Why is everything so closed and inside, and not outside?”
The Intranet Quorum system is one of about 50 projects that the technology office has launched in the past year and a half to overhaul the government’s outdated information technology system.
Government workers have had to grapple with old computers and outdated software programs that can’t always sync with computers in other departments, work is often paper-intensive and inefficient and documents are often compiled in a form that makes public access difficult.
The technology office, which launched about three years ago and stresses on its website the need for greater government transparency and accountability, aims to modernize government operations.
“It’s like, oh my god, everywhere it is broken,” said Bhagowalia of the government’s IT system. “So it’s just a phenomenal amount of work.”
In the first year and a half after Gov. Neil Abercrombie took office, he received more than 16,000 emails from the public, about 3,000 people showed up at the governor’s offices on the fifth floor of the State Capitol seeking assistance and staff fielded almost 2,000 constituent phone calls, according to Bhagowalia.
Managing the voluminous communications “on a fragile, technologically challenged system” was a problem, according to the project’s software solicitation. The governor’s office lacked a database that could handle all the information and quickly disseminate it to relevant staff and departments.
The Intranet Quorum system is supposed to help government employees manage this information much more efficiently and effectively. The software allows staff to log and electronically scan letters and emails that can be tracked daily, easily search a database of communications and generate customized correspondence reports.
The governor’s office is also using a new bill tracking system this year.
The Legislature maintains its own website that does pretty much the same thing. But Lockheed Martin’s Legmon system is supposed to help the governor’s office keep better tabs on state officials’ testimony on bills and the progress of legislation.
“By using Legmon the governor’s office can achieve a holistic view of testimony across the executive branch allowing them to conduct the appropriate correlations, reviews and edits prior to final submission of the publicly available testimony,” according information provided by the technology office.