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Abstract -- Surf's Up! Hawaii Attempts to Develop an Information Industry and Statewide Internetwork But Doesn't Always Catch the Right Wave Policy Track
P9: Industrial Policy

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Surf's Up! Hawaii Attempts to Develop an Information Industry and Statewide Internetwork But Doesn't Always Catch the Right Wave

Harkness, Stephen ( stephen@ptc.org)


This paper examines past and present developments in the State of Hawaii's telecommunications infrastructure, fledgling information industry and proposed statewide internetwork. It summarizes the history of telecommunications within the state over the p ast 100 years. It cites recent examples of local successes and failures in providing public access networks. Specifically, a mini-case study reviews the state government's efforts to provide a public access network via its network development agency, H awaii Information Network Corporation (Hawaii INC). A summary suggests lessons to be learned from this project and what the key drivers may be for Hawaii's successful development of an information industry in the future. The author proposes that the ti me is right for a concerted effort to develop public and government awareness of the need for a sophisticated information industry within the State of Hawaii and that there is opportunity for the coordinated development of a statewide internetwork.

Over the past few years state politicians, academicians and business executives have debated Hawaii's inability to develop an information industry and ride the current wave of enthusiasm for local commercial and government data networks. Some suggest th at with such a poorly diversified economy, overly dependent upon tourism for the majority of its gross island product, Hawaii must look to telecommunications and information services to diversify its economy and ensure future competitiveness.

Opportunities abound through economic necessity, such as: lack of diversity in the current Hawaiian economy; rapid decline in historically prosperous industries such as sugar cane and pineapple growing; and, Hawaii's unimpressive ratings near the bottom of the states' league for implementing new telecommunications technologies, eg. integrated services digital network (ISDN).

Opportunities abound in electronic commerce, such as: providing information repackaging services; increasing national and international competitiveness of local businesses through information retrieval services; overcoming some disadvantages of geographi c remoteness; and, the developing an information industry in general.

Opportunities abound in local government, such as: making readily available voluminous public information; facilitating public access to information; expediting government forms processing; streamlining bureaucracy; receiving opinion from the electorate ; and, reducing the cost of local government.

Previous attempts at developing an information industry have been poorly coordinated and without consultation and support from a variety of stakeholders. Other salient issues restricting past development relate to the non-competitive nature of the local market for private telephony and data services, largely due to strict regulatory mandates from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

It now seems inevitable that major information and network service providers in Hawaii's fledgling information industry will collaborate to develop a statewide internetwork. This paper identifies those stakeholders and explores how they can contribute a combination of resources, knowledge and ideas to establish a statewide network for the mutual benefit of the state and its residents.