#UNZ12: Unconferenz Highlights

This past Saturday, Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa held the 5th annual Unconferenz at Kap'iolani Community College, and once again spurred great conversation on technology in Hawaii. In addition to all to the photos and other media that will surely come out of the event, Gee Why's Storify is a neat piece that drew the day together, and there's Ustream footage of the Ignite session online as well. You can also check out our twitter feed for more notes from the discussions. In the following, I've provided a few highlights from my day there as a first-time attendee. Because issues of interest to the Media Council were slated for the same room, I was in one place almost all day. Fortunately, a number of others selected a similar schedule and kept conversation ripe throughout the day. The morning sessions I attended seemed to run in an interesting chronological and ideological order:

The first session was centered around social innovation; ways to engage and activate a community on and offline. This discussion began in on agricultural issues, but quickly grew into other areas when Kevin Vaccarello of Sustain Hawaii brought up the idea of achieving a 'triple bottom line' through education, innovation and advocacy. The concept being that, in working toward these three goals, an organization can help educate a public, provide entrepreneurship and business opportunities through innovations, and advocate for their cause to create policies for governance.  The triple bottom line was a good foundation for the subsequent session on Internet Activism & Democracy.

Dan Leuck and Peter Kay  helped continue the social innovation conversation into voter action in Hawaii. They specifically welcomed Civil Beat Editor, John Temple, for the work his media outlet provides to Hawaii voters. Improving Hawaii's low voter turn-out, Temple said is one of his goals for Civil Beat. With a number of web developers in the room, ideas for helping voters identify with candidates, ranged from infographs to facebook updates and applying concepts from dating sites to match issue interests between candidates and voters. Soon, discussions turned to action in the next session.

In the third morning session, the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (which grew out of the #HiTechTown talk ) made an ambitious effort, amid a room full of contributors, to draft a charter. Even Rep. Gene Ward showed up to add his insight to the discussion. While some progress was made, debate over semantics was an obstacle. From my own seat, it was neat to see a room full of independent contractors try to find a bi-partisan common ground in their establishment of a guild/trade association. One issue for action, that I think many HIA members have a stake in, is the increased speed and access of broadband services in the state.

After lunch, the future of Hawaii's broadband infrastructure was discussed with several experts in the room. Kiman Wong (Oceanic), Yuka Nagashima (High Tech Development Corp.), Gordon Bruce and Forest Frizzell (City & County of Honolulu) lead the discussion with contributions from knowledgeable participants who have worked, or are currently working, in this industry. With nearly all participants present IRL (in real life) and online, wifi capabilities at the conference were noticeably burdened by the data traffic. This proved to be the common concern of the session, that improvement in Hawaii's broadband is desired, or necessary.  Disagreement, however, came upon ways to connect to, or improve upon, current infrastructure. Gordon Bruce's decades of experience in this industry was particularly insightful for understanding the relationships between telecom providers and the state.

The day closed out with a presentations by Code for America Fellows and Ignite Honolulu. For me, these presentations exemplified the past and current successes of the Unconferenz, while displaying a consistent trait in the tech community - a potential for future opportunities.

Thanks again to Burt, Ryan and everyone who helped put the event together.