Back in the 2012 legislative session, several poorly crafted Internet bills galvanized the local tech community to discuss how to respond. What resulted was a townhall meeting and a the formation of Facebook group for the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA). It had all the good intentions to formally organize and provide a voice for Hawaii's technology community. Previous organizations like the Hawaii Technology Trade Association and the Hawaii Science and Technology Council had already come and gone, leaving a huge void for this nascent economic sector. (Note, these links for HTTA and HiSciTech are only stubs as their original website have been long discontinued.)
Three years later, the HIA continues to survive primarily as a Facebook group, with online discussions motivated by key individuals like Jared Kuroiwa, Peter Kay, Derek Gabriel, Ryan Hew and others. Interestingly, the group has not met face-to-face to discuss plans to organize, although many of the individuals know each other -- until now.
The question whether there is a voice for tech in Hawaii still remains. It came up repeatedly during a Hawaii Venture Capital Association lunch in January 2015. It was also a topic of conversation at the f2f gathering of the HIA. Jared Kuroiwa along with Robbie Melton, help moderated the discussion and summarized the following conclusions in the Facebook Group:
Investigate having a "technology group" within the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii (or other organization).
Look at if there are enough people wanting to form our own organization/501cX (pledge vote coming up).
HIA will still track bills and will have a wiki.innovationhawaii.com site set up to make it easier for people to find things.
HIA will continue to work with other tech organizations to form a unified position. If you are a leader (or member) of other tech groups, please feel free to share.
Derek Gabriel made a strong case for #1. Consulting with Len Higashi (HTDC) and with strong support from Sen. Glenn Wakai, the idea of joining an existing business association like the Chamber made a lot of sense. The organizational structure already exists and credibility established. The Chamber already has an Economic Development and Innovation Committee. Companies and individuals only need to spend the money, somewhere between $150 - $300 to join.
With case #2, Ryan Hew continues to be willing to provide the services, gratis I might add, to form a 501cX organization for the HIA. He has graciously offered this from day one and continues to do so. The challenge here, and probably the main reason it has not happened since that first meeting in Feb 2012 is that once the organization has filed the paperwork, the hard and laborious work begins. Maintaining a 501cX requires a dedication to administrative work that very few have the time or resource to commit to. So as much as an independent HIA as a 501cX is appealing, until someone steps up to work the day to day details, HIA will most likely continue as a Facebook group.
With item #3, Jason Axelson volunteered to set up a wiki for the group. One complaint expressed was that information about the original charter for HIA was hard to find. It is scattered between the Facebook group and the website HawaiiInnovation.com. One good thing over the years is the Charter has remained consistent:
The Hawaii Innovation Alliance (HIA) aims to create a more unified voice representing the islands' innovation community (technology, startups, entrepreneurs, new and social media, etc.) to foster innovation, educate lawmakers, and advocate appropriate policy.
Finally, it may not be a bad thing to have HIA continue as loose gathering of individuals, dialoging on Facebook. The tech/innovation community speaks through many organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, High Tech Development Corp., Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Hawaii Business Roundtable and Enterprise Honolulu. Having one more formal organization may not be the most productive. What is productive is building an informed community well versed in the issues. HIA may not 100% of the time agree on which bills to support, but its individual participants can still submit testimony and that voice according to Sen Wakai is still a very valuable one.
Thank you to all for being an integral part of Honolulu's first CityCamp. It was by all measures a great success, all because of you. I love how the community came together, shared knowledge and brainstormed ideas. It was inspiring to see City employees collaborating with the community in a productive, can-do environment.
As the day concluded, many people asked, what's next? CityCamp Honolulu was just a catalyst, a spark that we must now nurture and fuel to create lasting change. As Forest Frizzell said, "we will continue to have monthly meetups throughout 2012 as we usher in Code for America."
Some key dates to keep in mind:
Fri-Sat, January 20-21, 2012 - CityCampHNL Hack-a-thon
Saturday, February 25, 2012 - Unconferenz 2012
We will also keep you informed of any meetups that get scheduled through our Facebook page, Twitter and blog.
We wil also continue the conversation and develop our ideas online. Here are a couple resources I encourage you to participate in:
**Correction: I was just informed (at 4:55am this morning, 2/18) that SB609 is not dead and that the HWN/WLH committees have until March 5th to re-introduce this bill for decision making. It has to pass through both committees which will require a coordinated effort by its proponents but very possible nevertheless. Stay tuned as this process continues...
Senate Bill 609 which proposed to remove the Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana from the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission and reduce the number of commissioners from 7 to 5 is dead. The measure was deleted from both the decision making meetings of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee and the Water, Land and Housing Committee schedule on 2/16 and 2/17 respectively.
The video above is an excerpt from the hearing held on Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 of Gov. John Waihee. His testimony was given last and put the entire struggle for Kaho`olawe, the island's special status and the role played by the Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana (PKO) into proper perspective. It was this testimony that killed SB609. Thanks to `Olelo Television for recording the entire hearing.
This is not the end of the struggle though. SB609 brought attention to serious matters with the stewardship of Kaho`olawe. Over the coming months the PKO will need to tighten up their organizational structure and operate as a cohesive entity, especially in light of SB816 which apportions ten per cent of the conveyance tax to the Kaho`olawe rehabilitation trust fund and is progressing through the legislature.
When we first reported on the State's Task Force on Reinventing Government, I was a little skeptical as to what would become of it. Do these things end up on someone's shelf collecting dust or are they the impetus for action? One of the reports findings was the recognized need for a Chief Information Officer for the State system. The following section is directly from the report:
Information Technology Recommendations
(1) Establish a new senior position reporting to the Comptroller to be the State's Chief Information Officer.
Currently, the head of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) serves as both the Comptroller and Chief Information Officer (CIO). The Task Force recommends that the two roles be separated into two job positions. The new CIO position should be budgeted at market compensation. The CIO's responsibilities would include:
(a) Supervision of the Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD).
(b) Developing and implementing a three-year statewide Strategic Information Technology Plan (SITP) that would include the consolidation into ICSD of all hardware, operating software, related positions, and budgets for all IT and communications within the Executive Branch of state government and provide service level agreements (SLAs) to those departments.
(c) Reporting, at least annually, to the Legislature on the SITP's progress, and submission of a consolidated IT capital budget for the Executive Branch, as well as a report on the performance under all SLAs.
(d) Formulating a charter and chairing a monthly governance committee, to include all state senior IT CIOs (including Department of Education, University of Hawaii, the Judiciary, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and state hospitals), and providing the Legislature with an annual executive summary of projected and achieved budgetary savings, operational synergies, customer service enhancements, state productivity gains, and security improvements generated from the joint collaboration. This governance committee would also be responsible for the development of an annual master state IT budget and vision, as well as standards for IT job classifications; staff training, development, and certification; career path and staff retention goals; customer service and productivity targets; SLA performance targets; customer service survey results; and data management warehousing and disaster recovery planning.
(2) Request that the Legislature explore establishing a dedicated funding source for the CIO position.
Given the monumental task of consolidating all of the State's separate ICSDs and their associated hardware and operating software and of converting all departmental local area networks (LANs)-so that they can communicate and share data, it is imperative that the State be committed to maintaining the CIO position through a dedicated funding source. A dedicated funding source will ensure the continuation of the position and thereby increase the likelihood of achieving program goals and concomitantly ensuring long-term benefits and cost savings to the
Several articles have appeared about the report. A Business Week article at the end of January was the first to be published. In February this article was written in the Government Technology website. Both referencing the report, speaking to the need for a consolidated approach to information technology in the State system of departments. Each of these were written from a news wire perspective.
Not so in this recent post by John Savageau in his blog Technology Innovation Topics which was also picked up by WebSphere Journal. In it, Savageau brings his own keen eye for technical detail and the experience that comes with building and supporting data centers around the world. I know him from the work he did with Level 3, Pihana (now DR Fortress) and One Wilshire in Los Angeles. The article is a great read and brings attention to the dire need for our State to get serious about Information Technology. We've got the bandwidth (although we could always use more). We've got the brain power. I see the kind of excellent IT work that goes on in corporations like the one I work at and I am convinced we have the talent here in Hawaii. We just need the vision and commitment to to see this through.
The jury is still out on whether the report will create any real substantive change but it is interesting to watch bills like SB2548 move through the legislature. I will be very interested to see this position get created but more so with who would ultimately fill the role. Hawaii is at a point of critical change. Will we be positioned (in the middle of the Pacific) to have the right infrastructure, like IT and broadband, to compete with the rest of the world? Stay tuned.
There are a lot of interesting tech bills to follow during this 2010 legislative session. For example, HB2698: Creates the Hawaii Broadband Commission; or SB2548: Establishes within the Office of the governor a chief information officer and information technology steering committee; or the complete listing of Tech Caucus bills; or you can keep an eye out for SB2405, which proposes to tax online purchases through a national streamlined sales and use tax agreement.
With all this activity it is easy to overlook SB2314 a rather simple bill that proposes to allow the video recording of Board Meetings. As the bill states: The purpose of this Act is to clarify that audio and video recordings are permitted at public board meetings.
One of the board meetings I used to follow was the Hawaii Broadband Task Force within which I had no problem webcasting. I have heard though in other board meetings, video recordings were not allowed as the current 35 year old Sunshine Law statutes are vague on the allowance of video recording. Therefore, in the interest of good governance and transparency it makes sense to make it clear that video recording of board meetings are permissible. The problem is there is a deadline coming up and this bill hasn't been scheduled to be heard.
There is a simple solution to this. All it takes is an email to Judiciary and Government Operations Committee chair Sen. Brian Taniguchi. His email is email@example.com. Just send him an email which simply asks him to schedule SB2314 for a hearing. I just sent mine off.
As the legislature gears up for the 2010 session, the tech community is mobilizing to make the most out of what is to be one of the more difficult law-making years. In order to make up for the $1.2B deficit Gov Lingle is already looking at deferring tax returns, restricting spending and refinancing debt. It is highly unlikely lawmakers will support any tax-credits for the tech industry. Even back in October at the Rebuilding Tech workshop, Senators Fukunaga, Hanabusa and Representative McKelvey predict "programs are being cut, nobody will be giving away money in the form of credits." So what is the tech community going to do? Mobilize for one thing. Jay Fidell, Bill Spencer and a host of others are organizing Crucible 2010: Hammering out Tech Initiatives For the 2010 Legislative Session. For anyone in the tech industry interested in efforts to introduce new bills in this session should attend this workshop being held at the Plaza Club on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 starting at 4:00pm. The program agenda includes:
• WELCOME – JAY FIDELL
• STATE OF TECH: JOBS AND SO MUCH MORE – BILL SPENCER (5 minutes)
• HAWAII’S FUTURE IN TECHNOLOGY – KEIKI-PUA DANCIL (5 minutes)
• THE COALITION WORKGROUP – CAROL FUKUNAGA & ANGUS MCKELVEY (5 minutes)
• RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COALITION WORKGROUP (40 minutes)
GENERAL FINANCE – DAVID WATUMULL & KARL FOOKS
ENABLING ENVIRONMENT – MARK GILBERT & YUKA NAGASHIMA
R&D CREDIT – JOHN CHOCK & IAN KITAJIMA
RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGY – DARREN KIMURA & TED PECK
CREATIVE MEDIA – RIC GALINDEZ & NANCY GREKIN
• Q & A FROM LEGISLATORS AND INDUSTRY – BOB TOYOFUKU (20 minutes)
• CLOSING REMARKS – JAY FIDELL & BILL SPENCER (10 minutes)
• 5:30 p.m. LIBATION AND BONDING
• 6:30 p.m. PAU
The event is free but you need to RSVP by calling the Hawaii Venture Capital Assoc. at 808-262-7329 or ThinkTech at 808-524-0544. You can also email Bill Spencer or Jay Fidell.
In related news Lisa Gibson is stepping down from her post at the Hawaii Science and Technology Council as President/CEO. Keiki-Pua Dancil is replacing Gibson as the new President/CEO. Dancil will be presenting at Crucible 2010 and talk about Hawaii's Future in Technology. I spoke briefly with Gibson who told me "it's time for a change." She wasn't clear what she would be doing now but whatever it is it will be dynamic. We all wish Lisa the best in her future endeavors.
For those interested in a primer on the legislative process you might want to check out the Legislative 101 Workshop on Jan. 28th. The program will feature experts from the legislature’s Public Access Room, elected officials, and experienced advocates who will explain the legislative process and share insights on how to participate effectively. Speakers include Sen. Les Ihara, Jr., Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, Jeff Mikulina (Blue Planet Foundation), and Kapua Sproat. The program is free of charge and a good way to understand how to engage in a process that might otherwise look quite daunting. Reserve your seat here.
This is the most coordinated tech movement I have seen to date. Jay Fidell (ThinkTech Hawaii) is on a mission to help establish the tech sector in Hawaii. He's brought together Pacific New Media's, Susan Horowitz; Dan Leuck from Tech Hui; Mary Fastenau from Anthology Marketing Group and Bill Spencer from the Hawaii Venture Capitalist Association and put together quite an interesting set of panels. The program called Rebuilding in 2010: A Tech Prospective Approaching the 2010 Legislature provided a forum for discussing next steps in the post Act 221/199 world. As Act 221 sunsets in 2010, it is unlikely that another bill will make it through the legislature to provide the tech sector with tax credits. In this period of down revenues and furlough Friday's, the panel of legislators, Sen Colleen Hanabusa, Sen Carol Fukunaga and Rep. Angus McKelvey made it clears that when programs are being cut, nobody will be giving away money in the form of credits. During the Aspirations Panel, Ian Kitajima from Oceanit lead a rally cry for the tech sector to unify around the cause of Hawaii's survival in the world economy. The objective is bigger than one industry fighting against another in Hawaii. It's about Hawaii staying competitive against other tech centers in the US and the world. During the Methodology Panel, Darren Kimura (Sopogy) and Kelly King (Pacific Biodiesel) represented Hawaii's unique position in alternative energy. Hawaii has to focus on areas where it can excel. Solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and wave are all readily available here. Besides tax credits, what can the legislature do for these industries? Reduce the permitting overhead! Bill Spencer from Hawaii Oceanic Technologies also participated on the panel to bring attention to his two year struggle to get permits for a deep ocean aquaculture operation. He finally got it from the Board of Land and Natural Resources but it was a long and costly effort. Why can't the workers processing these permits feel the sense of urgency felt by the entrepreneur? Lack of top down leadership and message!
2010 looks to be shaping up to be an interesting year for tech. With the tech sector mobilizing, dynamic new industries forming and the ongoing search for new political leadership there will be a lot of potential for positive change. Well, that is at least the hope...
Jay Fidell's article about how Gov. Lingle led the tech industry to believe that she was going to veto SB 199, the Senate Bill that basically enviscerated Act 221 by neutralizing the 2:1 investment multiplier. The article is a behind the scene account of how there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for a chance at a veto. It's a story of how tech business people are passionate and persistent. And ultimately a story of disappointment. During this legislative session, I was witness to the effort put forth by the tech industry. I know folks who lobbied and wrote testimonials, who spent long hours at the Capitol trying to convince legislators and those who organized the troops to get the message out. This story is not only about a Governor's false promise to the tech industry but about the legislators who crafted this bill and their short sightedness toward Hawaii's economy. I keep hearing about the forces that are fighting against tech in Hawaii. Who wouldn't want to diversify Hawaii's economy, build a base of skilled knowledge workers and create industries that are clean and green. It is hard to imagine Hawaii without a tech industry. The exodus of Hawaii's bright young minds will continue leaving only service industry jobs, a throw back to the plantation days.
It will be interesting to see how the tech industry emerges from this. Right now they are licking their wounds, trying to figure out the next move. The tech industry will perservere, perhaps slower as a result of SB 199. The fear is with the fast pace of tech elsewhere can Hawaii keep pace and stay competitive. Next year is an election year for a new Governor. Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona has already come out on several occasions to voice his opposition to Gov. Lingle allowing SB 199 to go into law without a veto. He was also at the recent TechHui Conference this past weekend delivering the opening remarks in support of the tech industry. Is Duke Aiona our choice for the next tech Gov of Hawaii? I have yet to hear a statement from Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann on the subject. More to come as time is evermore cricial.
We recently had Larry Reifurth on Bytemarks Cafe and the topic of Hawaii's Communications Commission came up. I had been following the Broadband Task Force and was quite interested in the introduction of HB1077 into this Legislative session. Seeing Larry triggered the question, "What happen to HB1077?" I thought all the stars were aligned to create the Commission under the DCCA that combine the oversight of cable and telecom services into one. This would have brought a focus to Hawaii's broadband services and to coordinate efforts to best use the Federal infrastructure stimulus dollars. So now with the legislative session done, I must bemoan the death of HB1077. Based on the status of the bill, it seemed to be deferred. To when, I do not know. Larry mentioned that there were never any conferees assigned to the committee so the bill never got heard. Others say that legislators during this session had other things to consider (which I don't deny) and that the bill did not have the priority needed to get the attention. Maybe it will surface in next year's session. Hopefully next session, we won't be short sighted and look to the long term need. I suppose we will just have to wait and see.