Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

A few months ago I tried to get a Blue Card from DLNR to do some weekend work as a surfing instructor for a friend's surf lesson business in Waikiki. The Blue Card, issued by DLNR, is the permit that allows people to legally do surf lessons in Hawaii. Without it you get fined or locked up. No joke. So I looked at the requirements on the DLNR website, got my CPR card renewed, took a physical and went to their office to take their OPEN BOOK test for my Blue Card.

I was told that DLNR could not administer the OPEN BOOK test or issue any Blue Cards because a) they lacked personnel, b) there was a one year waiting list of people to take their test and c) they didn't have accurate records of who had blue cards already.

Okay, this could EASILY be solved with a database (MySQL or whatever), online login, online testing, and sync the database of test results and login information back through Access for internal viewing and validation in the DLNR office. Confirmation could even be automated after a candidate takes the online test. Fail and you have to retake the thing. Pass and bring in the printout of the confirmation with supporting docs DLNR. They pull up your name using a little customized Access software tied to their database, scan your docs as a PDF and add them to your file and voila---instant blue card with a complete record in the system for reporting and no extra work for the staff, waiting lists for OPEN BOOK tests or citizen frustration.
This isn't developer brain surgery. Many states already use a similar system for traffic school.

We have some smart people in this discussion group. I'd be interested in reading some creative solutions to this and other issues. Maybe we can reverse engineer some of Hawaii's systems so they are on par with the rest of the world. "That's just how things are here" is not an acceptable answer.

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I agree that the problem I faced with DLNR seemed to be a microcosm of a larger issue with the department that deals with surfing permits, maybe not DLNR as a whole. It was definitely a whole lot of effort and red tape for a simple permit to take tourists surfing---and totally avoidable.

Quick disclaimer here.. I am the General Manager of Hawaii Information Consortium. We manage the portal and all of the services you can access via

Things that seem very simple become a bit more complicated when you mix in the government environment. Even a implementing simple system has other considerations: Who will support it? Is sensitive information being stored? Is it vulnerable to SQL Injection or other attacks? What happens when the person who wrote it leaves? What about when the hardware needs to be upgraded? .......

I know these may seem like lame excuses to tech folks, but they are valid questions and any thing that can be brought up as an excuse to NOT do something gets a lot of traction in any large organization. Add to that the facts that supporting this application probably isn't in anyone's job description and the state has already lost about 20% of its tech workforce over the last two years.

We have been able to make many advances in online access to DLNR services in the last few years. Here are a few:

Online Boating Vessel and Trailer Registration Renewals
Hawaii Trails Public Information and Commercial Permit System
Online Hunting License
Fresh Water Fishing Permits
Commercial Fisherman Permitting
Commercial Fisherman Fish Catch Reports
Land and Title Searches
Online Wedding Land Use Permits (Commercial)
UCC Filings
Civil Resource Violations System

Link to all government services...

So you know, we have been talking about Hunter Ed Scheduling and Permitting in general for a while. The DLNR Chairperson has set priorities to get as many systems online as possible over the next two years and we are working with DLNR staff to make this happen.

Any time you have recommendations for applications for the state or counties feel free to pop me an email at

Last week DLNR contacted me to take the written test for the Surf Instructor license. After 1.5 years on the waiting list I had to go. The test was open book and I was out of there in 10 minutes with a score of 100%. A simple online test is still needed but the basic understanding of technology and the ability to do it is still science fiction to the department.
NOAA and others use stuff like Google Spreadsheet for signups which is probably infinitely more secure than anything the state is fielding.
You are right - that is ridiculous. Our Governor-elect has promised us a CIO and a technology council to help finally create a coherent IT strategy for the state. I've long advocated for both of these ideas. Success will depend on finding the right people. We encourage TechHui members who want to participate in fixing these problems to apply for these positions. I was very happy to see TechHui member Josh Levinson selected as communication director.

Neil takes the reigns on Monday. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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