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State right to stop workers’ IT abuse

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It’s a sad state of state affairs when “what else is new” was a common reaction to the revelation that Hawaii’s government workers are using considerable Internet bandwidth — and work hours on work computers — to videostream entertainment services such as Netflix and Hulu.

State workers who are slacking off on company time are feeding perceptions of public employees as inept, lazy, overpaid and underworked — and they do a huge disservice to those colleagues who are conscientious and hard-working. Overall productivity takes a hit, as does respect from taxpayers resentful of those watching movies and TV shows on our dime.

Key leaders in the Ige administration are to be commended for calling out the videostreaming problem and stopping it, by blocking such entertainment sites on the state’s network. In an Aug. 7 letter, Human Resources Director James Nishimoto told state directors and deputies that government employees are violating the state’s IT (information technology) resources policy.

“It has come to our attention that employees (are) accessing the Internet to access Netflix, Hulu and other streaming media sites through their state-assigned computers during work time,” he wrote. “Use of the Internet for downloading audio, video and picture files is strictly prohibited unless they are work-related.”

We applaud Nishimoto for pointing out that violations of this policy could result in immediate revocation of computer use, disciplinary action including firing, or civil and criminal liability. Refreshingly, that is the strong tone needed to ensure that all government workers know to take this seriously, and that such misuse of work time won’t be condoned.

Four days later, Todd Nacapuy, the state Office of Information Management and Technology’s chief information officer, reinforced this with his memo to state employees in the executive, legislative and judicial branches: “The state has finite IT resources and increasing these resources requires an investment of state funds that are also limited. Further, using IT resources for nonstate purposes adversely affects our collective performance of state business.”

Work productivity and job environment certainly have made splashy headlines in the past week. While Hawaii government workers took rightful criticism for dawdling with videostreaming, a New York Times exposé portrayed a polar-opposite situation at retail giant Amazon: a corporate culture that culls its workforce with Darwinian brutality. The story prompted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to question that portrayal of ruthless efficiency — but it’s also spurred more than 5,700 comments online, as well as robust debate about workplace culture.

Successful enterprises need to set high standards, to keep staffers sharp and the company thriving. Amazon might present an extreme, but being on any job means doing, to the fullest and best of one’s ability, the work for which they were hired. Anything less disrespects the job — and for slacking government workers, this disrespects public service, their diligent peers, and we who fund the salaries. Taxpayers don’t deserve employees who are watching Netflix and Hulu instead of working — and such employees, frankly, don’t deserve to be holding down our public jobs.

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