You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Hawaii Passes Open Data Legislation

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, June 28 2013

Aloha, data. The state of Hawaii has passed its first open data bill, to go into effect next month. The bill requires that state agencies make electronic data sets available, and is sure to expand the offerings of Hawaii’s open data portal, which currently features around 150 sets of data.

The law won’t be creating new streams of information so much as creating access to what was already there.

“It’s a step toward getting a unified format for this data,” says Burt Lum, the executive director of Hawaii Open Data. He helped write and promote the legislation along with the bill’s cosponsor Senator Glenn Wakai. According to Lum, Hawaii’s many departments currently store their data in a smattering of formats, including PDFs, web pages, and spreadsheets.

To develop the policy, Lum didn’t look to other states so much as cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York as examples. This is perhaps unsurprising given Hawaii’s total population is less than 1.5 million.

The bill was drafted beginning in November of last year. Lum says Governor Neil Abercrombie and Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia had been pushing a major program to update the state’s IT infrastructure, which included an open data component.

“We thought it would be a good idea to draft some legislation that codified what open data was and present it to the legislature,” says Lum, “so that it would transcend any administration.”

Lum helped “marshall it along” through the legislature between January and May when it was finally passed. Along the way the bill’s language was changed to ensure that the data it covered was only that already publically available, and to make sure its would be funded. Beyond privacy, and funding, the bill also had to contend with the concerns of departments it would be compelling to change their ways.

“Departments will say ‘We don’t have the resources or technology,’” says Lum. “We tried to mitigate that negative backlash by making it as diplomatic as possible.”

The bill, which Lum says was drafted with the mantra “shorter is better” in mind, will have a signing ceremony July third.