Gamification yields winning strategy for Hawaii

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Hawaii is racking up points for bringing gaming tactics to the state’s online services.  The effort has resulted in greater online engagement by the public and increased efficiencies for state agencies.

In an interview with StateScoop, Russell Castagnaro, the general manager of the award-winning Hawaii.gov, said the state had made a strong push this year to engage citizens online through techniques that game developers currently use, such as awarding badges, cross-promoting similar products and notifying users of their accomplishments with the site.

“Since we are a government site, we tried to find ways to add gamification techniques without overwhelming people who come to us for serious business,” Castagnaro said. “We want to find new ways to engage them without them even know we are actively doing it.”

Therein lies the trick — one Hawaii has been pulling off with great success.

That’s in part because state officials have tied their efforts to Hawaii’s business community. For example, the state added badges and leaderboards to its business processing sites, which allow people to engage players in a friendly competition to see who can save the most paper by filing online. Not only can users see their own savings, but — borrowing from the leaderboard idea — they can see the savings all users are achieving cumulatively.

Those who use the state’s online service are automatically connected to the gaming functionality. Someone filing a business form online, for example, may receive a real-time notice saying that another user just saved 25 trees, to spark competition.

“It all may seem simple, but its really just about getting people to enjoy interacting with government and to make the process a little more interesting,” Castagnaro said. “By making our site behave in ways that other consumer sites behave, it will make for a much better consumer experience and hopefully increase usage.”

State officials have also adopted some other lessons from the gaming community:

  • It’s common for game developers to frequently pitch new games that their current players might like. Likewise, Hawaii has identified and is cross-promoting its lesser-used e-government services. For example, someone who renews a business license online might receive a suggestion that a contractor license can be renewed through the portal as well.
  • Thirteen of the state’s apps share a single sign-on, so users can see their interfaces with government — both business and personal — in one place. Now, a massage therapist who renews his license online can, in the same interaction, reserve a campsite for the weekend and check to see whether his child has a speeding ticket.
  • Users can see how much paper or the number of trees they saved by using Hawaii’s online system and share their accomplishments or gauge where they stand against other users.

Since the project is still new, Hawaii did not have any specific numbers on the program’s successes, but Castagnaro estimates adoption so far to be above 75 percent.

“The response so far has been very positive,” Castagnaro said. “We had a system before that had not changed in seven or eight years, and now we are able to offer people several different ways to interact with government, which is exactly what we want.”

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Hawaii, States
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