Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

Neil Abercrombie unveils Technology and Innovation plan, calls for infusion of technology to create jobs and diversify economy

Neil Abercrombie today unveiled his Technology and Innovation Plan, the latest in a series of policy papers outlining his priorities as a gubernatorial candidate.

“We need to weave technology and innovation into our economy to grow new businesses, raise productivity and create good jobs,” said Abercrombie. “But it can only happen by building a disciplined policy that brings together the Office of the Governor, the Legislature, the university system, the private sector, and communities.”

Abercrombie cited recent efforts to dismantle and renege on tax incentives for technology-related investments in Hawaii companies. “This sudden change in state policy sent the absolute worst message to businesses, investors, and the talented people we need in Hawaii,” he said.

The Abercrombie Plan on Technology and Innovation outlined seven key elements:

1. Tax incentives for investments and support for capital formation

2. Build tech development and commercialization centers

3. Appoint Chief Information Officer to redesign government systems

4. Establish Innovation Labs in public schools

5. Integrate University of Hawaii technology transfer initiatives with private businesses

6. Establish Technology Council to design and monitor technology policy

7. Improve government process to support businesses

Jeff Hong, principal consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services Hawaii, endorsed the Abercrombie Plan. “Neil recognizes the leadership to create innovative and sustainable business practices in both the private and public sectors must start from the Office of the Governor,” he said. “The Abercrombie Plan gives investors and technology professionals the necessary support to build a business base in Hawaii.”

"Its great to finally see a coherent holistic tech strategy from a gubernatorial candidate,” said Dan Leuck, president of Ikayzo, which provides IT and software development services for Bank of America, Nomura Securities and the Army Corps of Engineers and local government agencies.

“The Abercrombie Plan shows solid understanding of the lessons learned from a 30-year effort to diversify Hawaii’s economy,” said David Fisher, principal consultant of Maui Venture Consulting. “What’s particularly important is the recognition of the need for education and involvement for all ages and sectors of our society.”

Take a look at the plan and provide your feedback.

This announcement of Abercrombie’s technology and innovation platform is the latest in a series of major policy positions from the Abercrombie for Governor campaign. Abercrombie has unveiled plans for education reform, early childhood investment, energy independence and promoting small business and entrepreneurship. They are available on his website at

[Disclosure: The above is the official press release from the Neil Abercrombie for Governor campaign. I am the Social Media Director for AFG.]

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on July 27, 2010 at 3:00pm
Hi John - I agree that the state should stimulate the innovation economy via investment rather than building their own centers. I also agree on fiber to the schools. On the CIO issue, I disagree - a good CIO could save the state millions by standardizing systems (currently departments make too many decisions on their own and they are usually ill equipped to make the right ones), leveraging SaaS, and reducing the massive redundancy we see throughout the states IT infrastructure.
Comment by John Sydney Yamane on July 27, 2010 at 3:49am
Neil's plans does not address the True Innovation. If I would redo his priorities it should be as follows:

1) build a public fiber optic network that connects all the schools and libraries and make it free!
2) i believe in technology/innovation centers but the State shouldnt build them it shouldnt compete in the commercial rental market, the tax incentives should go to the building owners. and these innovation labs should not be in our public schools. however, we should allow budget credits to those schools that are innovative.
3) I think a CIO for the State will end results costing tax payer more. I prefer privatizing key departments financial systems, when State uses outside companies, we will leverage their CIO and expertise at no additional cost, and the the management goodies that comes with a contract.
4) #6&7 seems to duplicate efforts... but I would suggest the state sponsor a State Symposium and have their EDBs produce reports and recommendations.
5) I would suggest the governor should consider a "innovative financial reform" first to fix the funding process for schools since it currently has budget problems with the adopted weighted student formula.
6) a last but not least a he should initiate a high-tech energy plan.

Together we can make a difference.
Comment by David B. Fisher on July 2, 2010 at 12:41pm
Good news that Gov Lingle vetored SB2001 yesterday, although ironic that the reason the legislation passed the bill to begin with was the eight years of criticism and lackluster support by the Gov. So now we have six months get some ventures funded with the post SB199 Act 221, although it is not at all clear that the investors will want to play, although the good news is that some will if you have customers, etc.

There are some who regret the loss of the extended the R&D credits, but you can't do R&D if you don't have investment or cash flow from non R&D activities. The SBIR, HREDV, and HTDV grants than many are using for R&D are not eligible for the State R&D credits.

Glad to see Neil supporting new credits. The challenge is to craft and pass a program in the next session. The earliest this would come in to play would be July 2011.

Of course for many here these credits are irrelevant with bootstrapping the preferred strategy. Curious to know which taxes are particularly troublesome to Charles Koehl. The largest tax bite is Federal and the low real estate taxes partially balance the higher than average state income tax, the GET pyramiding adds up to be equivalent to sales taxes in other states. There are other costs of doing business like energy and transport costs that might be bigger factors, although there are other compensating factors like quality of life and health. Which state would you move to and why?
Comment by Daniel Leuck on June 29, 2010 at 1:34pm
Aloha Neil. Its great to have you in the conversation! We don't often see direct engagement of the tech community by politicians.

I hope the CIO and Tech Council you proposed can provide a unified technology plan for state agencies based on modern IT infrastructure, open source software and SaaS as appropriate. A good plan could save taxpayers millions.
Comment by Neil Abercrombie on June 29, 2010 at 12:27pm
Terrific discussion. I want all of you to know the same thing I told a group of educators yesterday: I trust the people of Hawaii. I know we have the talent and the problem solving capacity right here at home.

You don’t need some politician to dictate all the steps to you. I believe we’ve needed the governor of Hawaii to bring people into the discussion and make this our collective goal. We won’t agree on every detail, but we can agree that the development of new industries and the infusion of technology into our economy is the way we are going to create opportunities for future generations and keep our young people here at home. And I also won’t let disagreements stop us from taking action—we’ve had too much lip service. We are going to keep moving forward. Charles’ comment is something I’ve heard throughout my campaign, talking to entrepreneurs all over Hawaii. If I could look you in the eye through this website, I would do it: Believe me, in an Abercrombie Administration, government will be your partner. That means more responsibility for you guys too, but I know you’re up to the task.
Comment by Charles Koehl on June 28, 2010 at 2:02pm
Our entirely bootstrapped, Hawaii-grown software startup has generated over $100 million in revenues during the last 6 years. I developed the software on the windward side and it is co-located in Honolulu. But because of all the taxes, it's only a matter of time before we move to another state. It's really a shame because if we were to stay in Hawaii we would create more high-tech jobs and help prove that Hawaii is a great place for high-tech.
Comment by Jake G. on June 26, 2010 at 10:32pm
Delete Comment Without even reading the main post here, I can already tell you that Hawaii is one of the hardest states to do business in because of all the taxes and no incentives. High taxes leads to stale growth and I think this is the biggest reason Hawaii has suffered over the past decade. Mrs. LL seems to think that taxing the hell out of companies in Hawaii is best for growth. Well look whats that lead to. I still haven't receive my state tax return.
Comment by Branden Tanga on June 26, 2010 at 6:09pm
@Daniel, @Brian
A lot of good points.
Comment by Jerry Isdale on June 26, 2010 at 6:05pm
"Science, technology and innovation in schools" - yes in k-12 and UH, but we also need to push it beyond to the general public - supporting innovators and experimentation in homes and garages. There is a great Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-With-Others (DIY/DIWO) movement blooming around the world and in Hawaii. It doesn't take a lot of capital these days to "Make Almost Anything" and shared/community workshops are helping make them available. It would be awesome to have a Fab Lab here in Hawaii - with branches on each island. And beyond the Fab Academy, places where non-academics can go to learn and make.

Science and Tech are a mystery to most people these days - our tech, advanced or not, is indistinguishable from magic to them. And they turn to hokum magic cures (speed up your pc!! earn $$$ at home doing nothing!! join hands and sing to stop the oil spill!!) Sustainable agriculture and energy are great goals - both rely on science and tech.

We need centers of community learning and making for basic chemistry, DIY-Bio, electronics, metal working, wood working, computing, aquaculture, 3d printing, CNC machining, etc. These centers should have physical spaces & equipment, as well as coordinated (and diverse) network presence, bringing knowledge and power to make to everyone who wants it.

Jerry Isdale,
(yes, I am biased and passionate about this)
Comment by Daniel Leuck on June 25, 2010 at 8:02pm
Branden Tanga: I'm not so sure that SaaS is a good idea for infrastructure in this case. There's a difference between having to call a vendor for support per the terms negotiated in the contract vs being able to walk down the hall and actually talk to the sys admin/engineer. I believe our state system is a large enough economy unto itself, that if there truly was a drive to streamline our state IT system, there would be enough money available to hire and have that expertise in house.
This isn't consistent with what we've seen in any department of any state agency. Realistically, there is no way the state is going to build an infrastructure team comparable to, say, Google, and there is no reason for them to try. The state shouldn't be in the business of designing, building and maintaining commodity IT infrastructure. Other people already do this far better, cheaper, and more reliably than the state. Its simply a question of expertise and economies of scale. When other people do it better and cheaper, you buy what they have and concentrate on your strengths.

There's a difference between having to call a vendor for support per the terms negotiated in the contract vs being able to walk down the hall and actually talk to the sys admin/engineer.
Its better to do neither. When your system is up 99.9% of the time, and you know the best people are on it for the .01% of downtime, its a non-issue. # of calls from us to Google for tech support in the past four years: 0.
Punahou has over 30K accounts on Google apps - students, faculty, alums, etc. They pay far less per student for core IT infrastructure (email, calendaring, etc.) than the DoE and their people enjoy far superior reliability and usability. In the DoE and other government departments people covertly use their personal email accounts because the official systems are clunky, unreliable and just generally painful. We see it every day.

It is inevitable that all states will eventually move to SaaS vendors for their core IT infrastructure. Economics will dictate this. The only question is, how long do we want to drain our coffers and suffer the inefficiencies of unreliable on-site installations? Do we really think we are better at IT than Google Apps-powered Los Angeles, population 3.83 million, or the tens of thousands of businesses including Motorola and Genentech that use SaaS for their IT infrastructure?


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