On July 3, 2013, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie took a step toward increasing government transparency and accountability in the state -- he signed into law House Bill (HB) 632, now Act 263, which requires Executive Branch departments to make electronic data sets publicly available. And this, says CIO Sonny Bhagowalia, takes the Aloha State to "the next level" when it comes to open data.

"This is a big initiative to increase public awareness and access to data and information created by and available from the state departments and agencies to all the citizens," he said, "so they can help enhance government accountability and transparency."

Bhagowalia says the new law also is intended to encourage public engagement and stimulate the creation of useful apps that people need in their daily lives.

"I think our policy here on open data is sort of catching Hawaii up to this new incredible wave of transformation and innovation," he added, "and it's a testament to the governor's vision of transforming government, creating a sustainable economy and developing a workforce in the state."

For Bhagowalia, pictured at left, open data has been a top initiative, as proven by the launch of the state's open data portal, data.hawaii.gov, in August 2012.

But prior to passing the new open data law, data sets on the portal were provided voluntarily by departments and agencies. Currently there are 200-plus data sets available on the portal, but many more are on there way, thanks to the new open data law.

"This act is going to take it to the next level of involvement," Bhagowalia said. "We now have a great forum to provide our services and really excite the public about what we want to do."

He said the open data law is another tool to help the State Office of Information Management and Technology change the way Hawaii approaches technology and business practices across the entire enterprise -- a goal that's spelled out in the office's 12-year technology transformation plan.

"These services will be online, so [citizens] will be able to look at that data, get more confident about their government, and get information they can use," he said. "All this will help data.hawaii.gov get some new energy and start to really come up with stuff that we can use."

Jessica Mulholland  |  Web Editor/Photographer

Jessica Mulholland has been a writer and editor for more than 10 years. She was previously the editor of Emergency Management magazine, and she loves that she can incorporate her love of photography into her work as a part of the Government Technology editorial team. Jessica can be reached at jmulholland@govtech.com@jbronwen on Twitter and on Google+.