Effective Government Starts With Political Will - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Christine Sakuda

Christine Maii Sakuda is the executive director of Transform Hawaii Government.

We must let good data drive decisions to take performance to a new level.

The subject of government efficiency is a sensitive, volatile issue. And always seems to strike a raw nerve in people.

Blaze Lovell’s recent article, “Is Hawaii Government Effective? It’s Hard To Tell,” captured the full array of responses and emotions whenever there is a discussion on performance metrics, data, and accountability.

Having been deeply involved with government modernization efforts for the past several years, I found myself empathizing with everyone quoted in the article.

I could see why lawmakers place a priority on reports to assess how state government agencies are performing. They want to see the good, bad, and ugly to see areas we need to shore up, perhaps where additional funding should be allocated to be more responsive to the needs of Hawaii residents.

Having data available in easy-to-read reports would help to facilitate prudent decision-making to establish the priorities and direction for our state

At the same time, I also see why there may be a reluctance among state leaders to be tasked with yet more administrative work when their plates are already full and there are other pressing needs at hand. There may be constraints to meet federal funding requirements. Each department may be already subject to a set of regulations. These rules drive their priorities, which may not always be aligned with the state.

Even if state agencies diligently document their progress, archaic, legacy computer systems may not be capable of certain functions. They must create workarounds that create silos and more paperwork that may make sharing their data with other state agencies challenging.

Princess Ruth Keelikolani building. Unemployment office.
A recent news story reported that state agencies could perform better. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020)

All of this creates more distance between state government agencies, instead of bringing them together for an efficient and unified digital government. I’m not making excuses for anyone. Nor should we ask anyone to lower their standards and cut anyone some slack. Just the opposite.

We’re all responsible for making our state and Hawaii’s people more resilient. We all must let good data drive our decisions to take government performance to a new level to ensure we are meeting the needs of residents across our islands. This can only be accomplished through a spirit of aloha and collaboration.

If modernizing government was so easy, we would already be there. It takes collaboration, public-private partnerships, and a shared vision for the future. Modernization takes much more than an investment in new information technology systems.

It also requires a new way of thinking and new processes. But most of all, it takes political will, a desire to rise above all of the challenges and collectively offer systemic solutions to the symptoms we all see before us.

Even that sounds over-simplistic. Political will is just the starting point. It is not a magic wand that will transform government.

Our rallying point must be the humble recognition that we are not where we could be as a state and that we can do better at presenting our best selves to effectively meet the needs of Hawaii’s people.

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About the Author

Christine Sakuda

Christine Maii Sakuda is the executive director of Transform Hawaii Government.

Latest Comments (0)

Okay tell me, does the city not own a power washer to clean up the concrete in the above photo? That's what we want the world to see representing our state? Deplorable.

Scotty_Poppins · 7 months ago

I agree with you. But I'm only one. IMHO we (collectively) tend to over think things...we should consider the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid (since there's a military genesis behind it, the "stupid" part is probably a little harsh). When we study and study ad infinitum, not much of anything gets done (we get lots of dusty studies, though). Also, for CYA purposes, many manini items are attached to the studies which cloud the truly critical problems. This results in a lack of focus. What should happen--in government--is to focus first on low hanging fruit. Having the strong political will (dare I say, "Leadership"?) to prioritize and pursue that which is obvious, in light of the instantaneous howling of the those who feel their manini need to be caught first, is sorely lacking. Of course, you can't blame our political class for just being (super duper) cautious about losing their jobs when the squawkers start waving signs for their challengers.

BigMomona · 7 months ago

There's a shortage of political will in Hawaii, and an oversupply pf political won't.

sleepingdog · 7 months ago

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