Established to promote an open, transparent and responsive Hawaii government, THG applauds the cumulative efforts behind UIPA.org, recently launched by Code for Hawaii and The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest as a free service.
Frustrations over Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) public records request process – essentially Hawaii’s version of the Freedom of Information Act – are well documented. The reasons for those challenges are multifactorial, ranging from sometimes legitimate privacy concerns, to the often infuriating limitations of technology, or lack thereof, throughout our government. UIPA.org goes a long way to help reduce barriers to accessing records so that the people can keep government accountable – one of the core principles on which the UIPA law was based.
Sometimes that takes the private sector taking the lead when the public sector is unable or unwilling to step up to help improve cumbersome processes and inadequate resources. Although the site is a valuable resource whether state agencies embrace the concept or not, agencies can still obstruct the natural flow of the process. It’s therefore our hope that the Hawaii Office of Information Practices will recognize the public service that UIPA.org provides and encourage agencies to engage and build upon its marriage of transparency and convenience.
A helpful step was taken last year when Gov. David Ige directed all state executive branch departments and agencies to designate their single UIPA point of contact. THG believes OIP can take this further by developing a process by which agencies copy or automatically upload the public documents upon fulfillment of requests so that they may be posted at UIPA.org. Of course, this may raise additional questions about whether documents meet web accessibility standards and whose responsibility that will be. But THG is confident the parties involved are up to the challenge.
THG also agrees with Civil Beat Law Center President and Executive Director Brian Black that democracy only works if the government operates with reasonable transparency. It also requires an engaged citizenry and, in this case, one that will innovate where government can or will not.