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Gov. Abercrombie on Open Data

January 24th, 2012 by Ryan Ozawa · 3 Comments · Government, Politics, Technology, The Web

Mahealani Richardson and Gov. Neil Abercrombie on KITV

Gov. Neil Abercrombie yesterday delivered his second “State of the State” address before the Legislature. And technology was one of the priorities he singled out as key to the state’s long-term future.

He mentioned the Hawaii Broadband Initiative, consolidation of disparate state systems under the Office of Information Management and Technology, and major renewable energy and smart grid projects (including an undersea inter-island power transmission cable).

He even proposed a “one-to-one laptop program” to provide laptop computers for every public school student. But considering the current labor dispute with the teachers union and its effect on the state’s already endangered “Race to the Top” grant, the proposal seems like a distant dream.

In connection with the Hawaii Broadband Initiative, Gov. Abercrombie said he would be requesting $2.9 million for eHawaii.gov, the state’s official web portal managed by Hawaii Information Consortium, LLC. The company has been doing a lot to put government services online, most recently including new civil union applications, a directory of ‘green’ employers, and an Employee Retirement System (ERS) self-service site.

Even with all the progress that’s been made to modernize government services, though, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Especially considering the massive volume of information the state holds across its countless departments and computer systems. One private company has been able to do quite a bit already. But imagine what could be done with the help of a growing corps of civic-minded programmers and developers?

With the City & County of Honolulu’s recent focus on open data, I was curious what Gov. Abercrombie’s position was on similar initiatives at the state level.

As luck would have it, the governor was this morning’s guest on KITV, and they invited viewers to send in questions for him. They only had time for two, but fortunately, mine made the cut.

My question, summarized by morning anchor Mahealani Richardson, was this: “With your emphasis on technology and education yesterday, what is your level of comfort and support for ‘open data’ policies? Government holds some of the largest stores of information that’s technically public. Will you push to put State data online so people can use it, build apps with it, and improve civic awareness and participation?”

Gov. Abercrombie responded:

“We have to be able to collect the data in the first place. We have a Chief Information Officer for the first time. And I’ve made a proposal to the legislature that we make a capital investment, not just an operating cost investment, in the most modern capacity for technology transfer of every kind, hardware and software. But that’s going to take tens of millions of dollars in order to do that because we’re so far behind, because our technology capability is so primitive now in the state. But we’re assembling exactly what it will take in order to accomplish that. And I’m hopeful that the legislature will give us a start this year, and then when we come into the new legislative session and new biennium after the election, we’ll have a full across-the-board proposal for that. The questioner couldn’t be more right, we need to do that, but not just for the public as such, we need to do it internally across the state, so the public can have the best possible information.”

He largely re-emphasized the substantial budget requirements of a state-wide technology upgrade, and noted that the state needs good access to data internally as much as the public does. But I was glad Gov. Abercrombie recognized the value and need for open data practices… and that KITV was willing to put the question to him.

Watch the full interview at KITV.com.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • cloudia

    this is the Abercromibe we elected. Warm Aloha from Waikiki.

  • cru jones

    This question is a great start. I would like to point out though that there are two conversations going on here:

    1. complete overhaul of state government technology resources. (the “tens of millions” citation I think is suspect for that, but it’s true that would be expensive).

    2. government granting secure access to public domain data. partisan gamesmanship sometimes is at odds with granting free access to people even though the cost is tiny. especially when it comes to reporting money-in-politics, Hawaii could pass legislation that requires better reporting from candidates and better distribution of information to the public in the form of an .xml file or something like that. To do that would not cost very much money.

    We’re all intimidated by the seeming complexities of “technology”. Because of that, we shouldn’t be content with general answers claiming it’s “too expensive” to grant the public access to OUR data.

  • Jesse Helm

    Great question about “open data”. I too would like to hear Abercrombie’s stance on that. Do you know anything else about the the proposed inter-island underwater cable that was mentioned? I’d like to add an article for my moving to Hawaii site but can find virtually no additional information on it. Is this just a “pipe dream” of Abercrombie’s or a realistic possibility for the near future? I’m on Kauai and this could potentially mean a lot for us.

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