Information Technology Can Streamline the Cost of Government

29 01 2013

ImageThis year begins with high hopes in all of us engaged in government service. We carry with us the legacy of those that have contributed much to the welfare of our state. Since the retirement of Senator Daniel Akaka and the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye, we are moving forward without the benefit of their presence in Washington but we will continue to hold them dear in our hearts. While some changes may be difficult to accept at times, our ability to adjust, compensate and compromise is the key to success at every level of government. From avoiding the fiscal cliff in Washington to holding the line on property taxes on Oahu, we are all faced with difficult decisions as lawmakers and must have the fortitude to follow through on our actions. We also need a shared vision of a 21st century city and a plan to unfold the future that we anticipate. Collectively, we need to be receptive to new ideas.

Newsweek recently published its first issue of 2013. But you couldn’t buy the January 4th issue on the news stand. After 79 years as a print magazine, the print publication ended with the December 31st issue and transitioned to an all-digital format. Many people have already cancelled subscriptions for home delivery of magazines and even the daily newspaper in exchange for the on-line versions. I think it would be difficult to find many people who used a pay phone in the last year. More difficult still is to imagine our daily lives without cell phones and tablets connected to the internet. I mention all of this because I want to emphasis the need for our government to be receptive to new ideas. Not only must we accept changes, we need to anticipate them to better serve the needs of a society that is evolving rapidly and irretrievably.

Technology is fundamentally transforming our lives. With the Internet at our fingertips, information of every sort has become readily accessible and this access has become indispensable. President Obama has called for the federal government to harness the power of technology to help create a 21st century digital government that is focused on improving the delivery of services to the American people. At the City level too, we need to strive for a more mobile workforce that can provide government information, data and services for the asking, inviting citizens to become partners in making government more productive and efficient. Growing astronomically, mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to grow from nearly 1 billion in 2011 to over 5 billion globally in 2016. By 2015, more Americans will access the Internet through mobile devices than desktop computers. My own staff can tell you that I communicate with them more frequently through my iPhone and iPad than the computer on my desk.

Clearly, applications of information technology or IT can streamline government services. It can reduce the amount of time it takes to move a building through the construction regulatory process and make construction safer, timely and less costly. The total assessed value of real property on Oahu for 2013 increased by more than 4 billion dollars. This is due, for the most part, to the construction of new buildings and the renovations of existing ones. There is no doubt that our community needs the jobs and the revenues from taxes and fees that new construction and building renovations can generate. Just to be clear; I am not talking about abdicating the regulatory responsibility of the City. I am suggesting that information technology can reduce the regulatory cost of construction as it increases the effectiveness and efficiency of land use and construction regulations. We need to search for ways to do all things better in City government and it must include the use of technology to our fullest advantage.






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