Effective government begins with political will


To take performance to new levels, you must ensure that decisions are made with better data.

The issue of government efficiency is a delicate and volatile issue. And it always seems to excite people’s raw nerves.

A recent article by Blaze Lovell, “Does the Hawaiian government work? Hard to say.” Whenever there was a discussion of performance metrics, data, and accountability, we caught a range of reactions and emotions.

Having been heavily involved in government modernization efforts over the past few years, I find myself empathizing with everyone quoted in the article.

I can see why legislators prioritize reports to assess how state agencies are performing. They want to see the areas we need to strengthen, perhaps where we need to allocate additional funding to better meet the needs of Hawaii residents.

Having data available in easy-to-read reports helps drive thoughtful decision-making to establish state priorities and direction

At the same time, we can see why national leaders are reluctant to be entrusted with more administrative duties when their plates are already full and they have other pressing needs. There may be constraints to meet procurement requirements. Each sector may already be subject to a set of regulations. These rules determine precedence that may not always match state.

Even if national agencies carefully document their progress, outdated legacy computer systems may not be able to perform certain functions. They need to create workarounds that create silos and more paperwork that can make it difficult to share data with other state agencies.

The building of Princess Ruth Keyricorani. unemployment office.
A recent news article reported that state agencies could perform better. (Corey Lam/Civil Beat/2020)

All of this is increasing the distance between state agencies rather than bringing them together into an efficient, unified digital government. I’m not making excuses for anyone. Nor should you ask someone to lower their standards and make someone less slack. just against.

We all have a responsibility to make our state and the people of Hawaiʻi more resilient. To meet them, you have to make decisions based on good data. This can only be achieved through the spirit of aloha and collaboration.

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

It also requires new thinking and new processes. But above all, we need the political will to overcome all challenges and collectively provide a coordinated solution to the symptoms in front of us.

Even that sounds like an oversimplification. Political will is just the starting point. It’s not a magic wand to transform governments.

Our rallying point should be the humble recognition that we have not been able to establish ourselves as the state of Hawaii and that we can do our best to effectively meet the needs of the people of Hawaii.

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