Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

Thereʻs a very good chance that you have no idea who I am. My name is Nathaniel Kinney.

I am interested in finding out what concerns Hawaiʻiʻs tech industry might have at the City & County level. In addition, I am also interested in finding out from members of Hawaiʻiʻs tech industry, how the City government can do things differently to become more efficient.

At this point, you may be wondering, why the heck does this Nathaniel Kinney guy want to know and who the heck is he to even ask us these questions?

In response to those two questions, I now present my actual introduction. I am one of 14 candidates running for the Honolulu City Council District 5 seat. The District 5 seat was recently left vacant by the unfortunate and untimely death of our council member Dr. Duke Bainum. I bring a fresh perspective to the council. This perspective however, will not be mine and mine alone, but rather it will fall within the ownership of a collective group of ("young" and "new") people (including yourselves) who know what specifically can be done differently and how it can be done smarter.

It would not surprise me at all if, at this point, youʻre convinced I am not going to win this election because two of my opponents have much more name recognition than I do. You would be correct, they currently do have name recognition. However, in the next few days and weeks, as we all campaign, I am convinced that for those keeping tabs on this special election, that you will become more familiar with my name and my vision for Honolulu.

There are a number of organizations that have heard my vision and now endorse me. Among these organizations are:
- Hawaii Firefighters,
- Hawaii State AFL-CIO,
- Hawaii Carpenters Union, and
- Operating Engineers.

Endorsements, as Iʻm sure you know, are important. That I, a 29 year-old "new" candidate, was able to get these endorsements, when there are career politicians with much more name recognition than me means something. What it means is, that these long-standing organizations are not happy with current law makers and career politicians. These organizations want someone with a fresh perspective and who can bring new ideas to the problems we face. We cannot continue doing what we have been doing. My fear for our city is that, electing the same people into office is going to yield us the same results.

We cannot afford the same results during these tough economic times. During a term of high unemployment levels, our city government has decided to:
- increase property tax rates,
- increase vehicle registration fees, and
- increase the bus fare.

I do not envy the difficult position our city government is in. I do want to be a part of the solution. With your support, I am confident that we can develop smarter and more innovative solutions to our problems.

During these tough economic times, increasing taxes should be our last resort. Our first plan of action should include "audits" of the way we operate. Are we using the most efficient technology that allows our government to work more quickly? Are we changing our behaviors to reduce/eliminate government waste and energy consumption?

I know that there are ways that we can re-build a more efficient government without cutting jobs. We have to work smarter. We may have to move people around to different departments of the city government (as we become more efficient), but I know that there is more that we can do than what we are doing now. I also know that our local tech industry can help us get out of this mess.

I now return to where I began. How can the Honolulu City Council help you, the tech industry, and would you mind sharing with me how the tech industry can help make our government run smarter and more efficiently?

Thank you very much,

Nathaniel Kinney

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Comment by Nathaniel Kinney on July 21, 2009 at 2:50pm
Hello Truman,

Thanks for your reply. That was probably me since I was canvassing the community today. Did you see a segway zipping by?
To respond to your question, Iʻd like you to CLICK HERE to read my response to your question. I donʻt want to use Tech Hui to advance my candidacy. My intention for joining tech hui was because I just wanted to find out what the tech communityʻs concerns are and what ideas you all might have to make our city government run better. You guys definitely are not lacking of good ideas. Everyoneʻs responses are awesome.
Comment by Truman Leung on July 20, 2009 at 9:30am
Thank you, Nathaniel, for your post. I am a District 5 resident.

How can the Honolulu City Council help? Perhaps there is a way the city can help to encourage entrepreneurship in our city in the software as a service (SAAS) industry. The SAAS business model has a very low-impact on the environment. Geographic isolation in the middle of the Pacific is not a limitation for this type of business because software is delivered as a service over the web. The subscription model of SAAS businesses creates a relatively stable and reliable cashflow without seasonal dips. SAAS businesses can be started with little capital and they require virtually no inventory or warehouse costs. SAAS businesses are the exact type of business that seem to be funded by incubators like Y-Combinator because it allows for a fairly short ramp-up to "
ramen profitability". In this economy, potential entrepreneurs are less likely to take the risk of giving up their jobs to pursue the life of the startup. However, if the city could somehow help with low-cost health insurance this would lower the barrier for young people to take the leap. Perhaps the city can assist startup entrepreneurs in getting
Med-Quest? Also, it would be great if the city had a facility which they would open up for SAAS startup entrepreneurs to use as a
coworking space. All that would be required would be to provide a large air-conditioned room with tables, wifi and power outlets. People could bring their own laptops. The benefit of providing a coworking space would be to offer a place where SAAS entrepreneurs can both work and also benefit by sharing ideas with one another. Such a coworking space would also be an ideal location for the city government to provide small business assistance. Could public libraries be used for this purpose? Coincidentally, some one just came to my door to hang a flyer for you as I am writing this. Can you quickly tell us why we should vote for you rather than another candidate? Thanks.
Comment by Nathaniel Kinney on July 15, 2009 at 11:32pm
Thanks guys for your responses. Brent, Laurence, Gabe, Dan, Konstantin your opinions and ideas are greatly appreciated. I like the idea of a social-networking site at the county level. My campaign manager started Moiliili Matters to help organize the Moiliili neighborhood. I think it's working out great so far and it will continue to grow.

I want technology to bring the city government to everyone's finger tips. I like the idea of providing greater city government transparency using online media. I also like the idea of creating mobile applications that help with city government services. We need to find and make ways for our city government to run more efficiently.

By becoming more efficient, I believe we can eliminate costly government waste & inefficiencies while also protecting current jobs. Property tax rates were increased last month, bus fares have gone up, vehicle tax registrations have increased too. I am confident that if we can have a more efficient city government, we will reduce the need to increase taxes and fees. Regardless of who wins this race, I hope our city government will begin to talk more with our tech community to help resolve some of the issues that you all can help with.

Thanks again.
Comment by Gabe Morris on July 9, 2009 at 9:42pm
Why not build something like this to solicit ideas from voters/constituents:

Doesn't have to be limited to tech...
you could have separate sections for tech/education/transportation/public safety/etc...
Comment by Konstantin A Lukin on July 7, 2009 at 11:16pm
I am fairly new to Hawaiian Islands, but have noticed that, in my opinion, there could be some improvements to the way things are right now. So I am not sure which changes, Nathaniel, you are proposing, but I do agree that a lot has to do with efficiency and transparency of the legislative branch. I do think that current US administration is doing a great job at collecting personal stories and public opinions over the Internet. I think there needs to be a way of letting people express themselves effortlessly about major legislative decisions and general direction, since most of us hardly even know what's going on due to general lack of information availability.

An informative website that presents information in an easy-to-digest manner could be a great start. Creating a social networking site, such as this one, could be another great and inexpensive start. It can contain things like 'polls' and 'surveys', which could help our legislators make right decisions based on 'running' public opinions. Forums, Blogs, Pictures, and Video could help distribute information to facilitate decision making processes. Groups could be used to talk about different issues. Events to let people know what's currently happening and where.

I am guessing there are people on the Islands, myself included, who, technically, could probably help you get started with such initiative. Most likely you'd be able to find most of them on this social networking site :-)
Comment by Daniel Leuck on July 7, 2009 at 2:07pm
Aloha e Nathaniel. I think its great to see politicians directly engaging the tech community in this manner. I heard about you through our mutual friends Derek Kauanoe and Alyssa Murphy. Alyssa showed your site at our last GUI Meetup where we discussed political sites.

Our business is within District 5. As a tech company in Manoa one of my primary concerns is staying dry :-) Manoa stream has come close to drowning us and our computers more than once in recent years.
Comment by Gabe Morris on July 7, 2009 at 1:09pm
Hi Nathaniel,

Are you familiar with the Apps for Democracy program being run by the Washington DC municipal government?

Here are a few links:

New York City is now attempting to emulate the program:
Comment by Laurence A. Lee on July 7, 2009 at 10:45am
Hi Nathaniel,

Although I'm not in your district, I applaud your efforts to use Technology to reach out to other communities that aren't tuned into Traditional Media outlets.

As far as Technology is concerned, what I would like to see for Honolulu (and the State of Hawaii) is more Transparency in how we operate, and better Opportunities for busy individuals to keep track of relevant issues, and participate in the process via Electronic Means.

I'll make no secret about it: I am a constituent of, and have been very dissatisfied with, Romy Cachola's performance with respect to Rail. Based on the input of a mere 122 Responses, with 117 responses in favor of the Salt Lake alignment, I still find it hard to believe that Cachola considered such statistics (in an obviously rigged poll) "good enough" to make a decision. This is a district with over 70,000 residents!

Furthermore, I doubt it's much of a secret that Honolulu's Politics is chock-full of shady, "unofficial" back-room dealings. The recent failure of HGEA, HSTA, UPW, and UHPA to provide a written proposal and hold discussions on the record adds fuel to this belief.

How can we use Technology to create Transparency in the process, and increase participation?

I'd venture to say that a properly designed Social Network could fill in the void. Something that includes links to the prominent Bloggers like Poinography, along with traditional Medial (KITV, KHON, etc) would be a good start -- we want to give people opposing viewpoints from as many sides as possible.

We also need a better system to manage the Video Archives of Meetings and Testimonials. Whomever wrote the current "Information Systems" that the City and State are using should be lined up and executed for such shoddily designed code. It might have been a passable Web Information Design in 1995, but 15 years later, it's definitely not as feature-rich as what's commonly deployed today.

At a bare minimum, an Information System needs to be in place to allow Taxpaying Voters to create logins, subscribe to Keywords or Tags ("Act 221", "District 5", "H-Power", etc), and receive email notifications when new Content is added that is tagged with said keywords. If it's designed as a Social Networking site, tags can be added to the system in a manner, which means "we the people" are volunteers actively Tagging new Content (Bills, Proposals, Meeting Agendas, Meeting Videos, Testimonial Videos, etc).

There's a lot that Technology could do for Hawaii, but sadly, the Geeks aren't in control. IMHO, the Mayor is simply a puppet for the big Labor Unions; and the City Council has too much in-fighting to be effective enough to take any direction.
Comment by Brent on July 7, 2009 at 8:01am
Hi Nathaniel,

Interesting question. I guess it depends on what exactly you are looking for. By way of introduction, I am not living in Hawaii currently. I used to live there and was Vice President of Portfolio Construction in the Asset Management group in the Bank of Hawaii. Eventually, lack of good career oppurtunities forced me to relocate to New York, where I now work with Investment banks and hedge funds. (not the most popular kids on the block these days....)

I would love to get back to Hawaii. I successfully pitched the concept of opening an office in Hawaii, largely based on the tech credits there to a company I currently work with, but the financial meltdown put those plans on hold, and now with the tech credits expiring, it may not happen at all. However, we do have two employees, and soon to be adding a third that currently live and work in Hawaii. For me, my interest would be to see a more hospitable environment in Hawaii for high paying jobs. And I dont necessarily mean the tech credits as they currently stand. I always felt the credits might have been easily abused could potentially cost the state more money that they brought in, however, the government should take a hard look at finding ways to make doing business in Hawaii easy and cheaper than it currently is.

As far as efficiency, I worked in the tech group at Bank of Hawaii during the Mike O'Neil years. If you are not familiar with Mike, he was brought in as CEO around 2001 to turn the bank around. 4 years later, the stock price had quandrupled. But it required hard choices. One of those choices was to outsource a large portion of the technology from the bank which required layoffs. Usually, efficiency is not that hard to find, but it does require upsetting the status quo and potentially making choices that impact lives.

The guy you should really talk to is Dan Leuck. Hes landed contracts with NY banks and brought the jobs back to Hawaii. If youre looking for advice on building tech platforms to help automate workflow and deliver process efficiency, hes knowledgable in that field, as well as knowing the issues a technolgy company faces in Hawaii.


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