State Technology Office Gets New Name

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The State Office of Information Management and Technology, created in 2011 in a public-private partnership funded largely by the Omidyar Ohana Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, quietly became the Office of Enterprise Technology this week.

I say quietly because the change wasn’t announced, and had to be pointed out to me by a member of the state IT Steering Committee. The closest thing to a notice that I saw was a Facebook notification that the OIMT’s page was renamed (and got a new URL in the process).

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Sure enough, @OIMTHawaii on Twitter also became @ETSHIgov, and the OIMT YouTube channel was also renamed to ETSHIgov (although, as I know all too well, Google doesn’t let you change URLs, so it’s still at oimtHIgov). Finally, as an open data advocate, I must note that one frustrating result of the new name and website is that web links to hundreds of pages and documents that used to be on the OIMT website are now gone.

What an interesting few years it’s been for government tech.

When the OIMT was created, it came with a high-profile government tech leader in Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, who was recruited to the post after several high-ranking positions in federal IT. As the state’s first Chief Information Officer, the OIMT’s mission was no less than the complete transformation of the state’s massive and massively outdated technology infrastructure.

An ambitious, multi-milllion dollar, 10-year, 1,300-page “Business and IT/IRM Transformation Plan” was unveiled the following year. The OIMT began building a coalition of local business and community leaders to help spread the word. Since I was, and still am, in favor of more efficient government through technology (and greater transparency and opportunity via open data), I even joined that coalition.

But the optimism started to fade.

By 2014, Bhagowalia was given what was described as a promotion, becoming the “chief adviser for technology and cybersecurity,” paving the way for a new CIO in former deputy Keone Kali. Suffice it to say, he spent less time in Hawaii, and in October he was recruited back into federal government service.

“Over the past three years, Sonny has helped Hawaii leapfrog from the back of the pack in technology and cybersecurity to the front of the line,” then Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at the time. “Because of him, we are now on the right track, charting and navigating the course to success for the future.”

A month later, Abercrombie would lose his re-election bid to Gov. David Ige. Within a matter of days of the election, a shake up within OIMT sparked controversy. The OIMT also got caught up in the firestorm over the state’s failed health insurance exchange after a critical audit slammed a vendor that the state eventually cut ties with… but after the OIMT had given it an award after it had hired away several OIMT staffers.

This past April, Kali conceded that the ambitious transformation plan was simply unrealistic. That same month, Gov. Ige apointed a new CIO, Todd Nacapuy, a tech entrepreneur turned local Microsoft rep. (Nacapuy decided he’d call himself the state’s Chief Innovation Officer as a “minor act of civil disobedience.”) Things seemed quiet since, with only two press releases issued since June.

But it looks like this week’s name change is part of a simmering effort to fold the OIMT into the state’s existing, long-running technology departments.

This past legislative session, SB1000 proposed the consolidation of the OIMT and its CIO position with the Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) of the state Department of Accounting and General Services, creating the Office of Information and Technology. State comptroller Douglas Murdock submitted the only piece of testimony asking for the bill to be deferred, and it was.

Now, the new Office of Enterprise Technology Services (OETS?) describes itself as follows:

Led by State Chief Information Officer (CIO) Todd Nacapuy, the Office of Enterprise Technology Services (formerly the Office of Information Management and Technology pending consolidation with the Information and Communication Services Division of the Department of Accounting and General Services) leads information technology modernization and transformation efforts for the State of Hawaii Executive Branch.

 

The last available draft minutes from the IT Steering Committee in May don’t mention OETS (and the August meeting was canceled, and no meeting was posted for September). But the minutes do note that the ICSD will be led by the CIO. It also reports that the former newsletter of the tech transformation project, OIMT News, was renamed to howz.IT in order to be “more inclusive of not only the Information and Communication Services Division… but also the entire state technology team across all departments.”

I’m hoping the next issue of howz.IT tells the story of the birth of OETS.

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