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Honolulu Mayoral Candidates Commit To Using Tech For Greater Transparency

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, August 10 2012

The city of Honolulu's mayoral race has been dominated by whether to build a light rail connection between the city's center and Kapolei on Oahu's southern side.

But local open government advocates want the next mayor to focus on government transparency as well. Earlier this week, they managed to get all three of the candidates to sign an open government pledge modeled on the one that open government advocate and web developer Luke Fretwell created for the mayoral race in San Francisco in 2011. Fretwell is the founder of the blog GovFresh.

The pledge, which can be read here, is a promise by the candidates to use technology to make governments more transparent, to enable higher levels of citizen participation and collaboration, and to enable more efficient delivery of government services.

Voters in the city area headed to the polls on Saturday, and they'll choose between the incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle, former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano and Honolulu's city and county managing director, Kirk Caldwell.

The city appears to have made progress under Carlisle, who has had the city's information technology department participate in local civic hacking meetings and develop a fledgling new government data portal, as well as create a Honolulu Tsunami Evacuation Zones app. The app, published this March, was created in response to the city's collective freakout when the tsuanami hit Japan last year. The city is also hosting three Code for America fellows, who have built several apps for the city this year.

"When the tsunami hit Japan, people started looking up the maps on our Web site, and there were so many requests it was like a denial-of-service attack, people were freaking out," said Forest Frizzell, the city's deputy director of its information technology department.

The mayoral open government pledge initiative was organized by the local tech entrepreneur Burt Lum, executive director of Hawaii Open Data, Inc. who is also a local public radio host. Lum is also a contractor for the city's tech department and is a part time online community manager for the city.