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Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Reimagine a Better Hawaii After COVID

Bill Spencer

Residents of Hawaii need to define our “new normal” rather than become a victim of it.

We need to imagine a Hawaii where all sectors cooperate, rather than allowing one sector to suck what is best about Hawaii out of it. All sectors, including agriculture, energy, the military, state and city government, and even tourism benefit from technology and innovation.

What benefit does tourism bring? An opportunity to have plentiful low paying jobs? More cases of COVID?

I am a 30-year resident and I have been part of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association for 25 years. I have always supported and promoted ways to diversify Hawaii’s economy, with a focus on innovation industries that can create quality and modern, high paying jobs. I have worked with all manner of organizations impacting Hawaii’s ability to become economically self reliant. The organizations include Blue Startups, Hawaii Angels, Pacific Asia Center for Entrepreneurship, Chaminade, the HUB, and a long list of others that have come and gone.

As a keen observer of Hawaii’s missed opportunities to become sustainably self-reliant (Desert Storm, 9/11 and now COVID), I want to suggest some things we can do to transition to a “new normal” without 11 million tourists tromping around our special islands. Many of these suggestions can be done right now.

We are in a time where all of us must make changes in the way we live our lives and operate our businesses.

It is time to re-imagine a better-than-new normal Hawaii and align this vision with prospective leaders. And we can start by acknowledging that in fact we have already diversified our economy with innovation businesses. The seeds were planted during the Ariyoshi administration and have grown into a significant cluster of locally spawned businesses and support groups. Those who want to rely on tourism seem to ignore this fact and pretend that diversification is impossible. Diversification has come a lot further than the politicians ever imagined, but they are blind to it. Let’s open their eyes.

Re-Imagining the Economic Future of Hawaii


Over the last 30 years we have developed world-class knowledge workers with the skills needed to create and work in innovation businesses. Designers, engineers, software architects, and biotech researchers, would love to live here, we just need to show them how to make it happen and incentivize them further if needed. Continuing to build our talent base on island needs to be a priority and we should be supplementing education opportunities for our young people. Spend HTA ad dollars on a Kama’aina Come Home campaign that can attract our best and brightest home instead of telling the world what a great place Hawaii is to visit.


Leadership has long been wrong-headed by seeking to attract huge companies like Apple or Microsoft to move here instead of entrepreneurs and talented people who can live anywhere in the world, so called Digital Nomads. Chenoa Farnsworth who leads BlueStartups, suggests the need to strongly recruit entrepreneurs and digital nomads fleeing places like Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle as remote work becomes the norm. We have an amazing lifestyle to offer those fleeing Silicon Valley and elsewhere.


The HUB in Kakaako

Knowledge workers, tech workers, coders, customer service and a long list of others already know about co-working online, but companies still think there are benefits in physically being at work. This is not sustainable in a virus-woke world. Google’s announcement that its employees will work at home until summer 2021 is a huge shift, but opens up a world of changes in our economy geared toward keeping people at the office.

Commercial real estate and essentially any non-consumer facing business will be impacted. We need to re-think how to support home workers and face the reality that the office is on the way out. Home based work will also have the benefit of reducing pressure on the need to spend money we don’t have on a rail system that goes beyond the Middle Street hub.


Make Hawaii the highest end tourism and eco-tourism spot in the world commensurate with what makes us special. Hawaii does not have to be the Disneyland of the Pacific. We need to be the Switzerland of the Pacific. Charge higher fees for access to attractions, trails and parks. Hotel workers at all levels are undervalued despite their “essential worker” status. It is time to start paying such workers enough money to live in Hawaii without having to have two jobs.

The impact of an average of 320,000 extra people crowding our streets should be clear to all of us by now. Clear skies, clear ocean water, clear trails and a clear desire to change. It is time to take ownership of our islands away from foreign owned hotel companies, banks and airlines. High end travelers are buying the condos and properties locals cannot afford. They are shopping in Dolce Gabana, Tiffany’s and Chanel. They can afford the higher freight.

Though dependent on mostly Federal dollars it is time to stop the rail at Middle St. Do we want tourists that can only afford to take public transportation from the airport to Waikiki, or who can afford limos and private jets?



Hawaii must first become aware that it needs to be economically reliant on what we can do ourselves, without the burden imposed on our resources and environment by mass quantities of tourists. We know we can buy locally grown vegetables and fruits. We need to buy more local technology products and services. Local companies lose out on millions of dollars in contracts given by State Government and private industry to mainland tech companies that are no better and in many cases not as well equipped as local tech companies. Lowest bidder does not benefit Hawaii’s tech industry.

We can farm the ocean rather than relying on under-paid third world workers to fish for an ever-dwindling resource. Pineapple fields can be turned into smaller patches of farm land to smaller farming companies instead of waiting for big agribusiness to come in. Coops and shared ag processing facilities can reduce costs.


We can continue to ignore Hawaii’s unique opportunity to provide enough energy to power the islands for the next 1000 years, geothermal, or we can continue to develop the capacity for other alternative energy sources to meet the 2040 goal. But it will take leadership and political will, as yet not evidenced, to meet this goal. One of the best review of options comes from Blue Planet which can be found here: waypointsHawaii.org


No question Hawaii needs affordable housing and this need will expand dramatically as kama’aina come home and if we are to attract digital nomads. People who cannot pay their rent or mortgage will either leave Hawaii or be forced into other options. We have to pay people a living wage and give them a reason to come home or stay, and that starts with having an affordable place to live. Office building and bankrupt boutique hotels could be converted into affordable condos.


We need to be able to feed ourselves. Entrepreneurial efforts like Mao Organic Farms, Pono Pork, and farmers markets must be supported. Mainland grocery stores need to stop gouging locals along with tourists who won’t be back for a long time if ever. Stores shouldn’t be telling us to buy local then charging more for something shipped from Maui than the mainland. They should be buying as much as possible from local sources who will expand to meet growing demand. There is a lot of farm land to be made available to farmers instead of waiting for conglomerates to figure out a way to make agriculture something that produces food sold elsewhere. Landowners could get their ground rent from a share of proceeds. Hawaii exports 85-90% of the seafood it lands here, so no lack of seafood from fishing.


Clearly there is a disconnect when technology and progress meet Hawaiian Cultural practices and concerns. Even the TMT, that offered benefits to native Hawaiians beyond money and jobs, has been spurned, and leadership seems trapped into inertia. Instead of facing protests and lawsuits for every project that involves technology or innovation, industry leaders and Hawaii’s cultural leaders need to figure out how to proceed. It is the 21st century and all of us cannot escape the opportunity and benefits of moving beyond our differences and making Hawaii better for all of us who have the opportunity to live here.

Hawaii needs leadership focused on re-touristing and fixing our broken economy. We need to re-focus our priorities on assuring self-reliance first. We need residents who can actually afford to live here without working the proverbial 2-3 jobs. We know according to recent Aloha United Way studies a shocking 42 percent of Hawaii residents have limited assets and are living paycheck to paycheck, despite being hardworking and employed. This is NOT sustainable.


Hawaii needs a “Hawaii Service Corps (HSC)” modeled after the very successful National Health Service Corps which reimbursed physician education costs in exchange for year-for-year work in underserved areas. Imagine the quality experiences and life changing possibilities that would come from such a plan that would allow new graduates and the otherwise under employed the opportunity for meaningful work. Maybe the homeless population could be served by those who’ve made it out of this situation and are getting public assistance. A service plan could pay a living wage to the folks in exchange for helping current homeless people out of their situation. Many jobs in underserved areas go unfilled.

About the Author:

Bill has more than 30 years of experience as a technology entrepreneur, mentor and coach to Hawaii startups as President of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, board member of Hawaii Angels and mentor at Blue Startups. He is presently an angel investor advising entrepreneurs who want to start a businesses or seek investment capital. Particular focus on social entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, mariculture and software.

Paubox announces tech upgrade at annual security conference

TLS 1.3 Transport Security Layer - Paubox
Hoala Greevy, Paubox Founder & CEO

Paubox, a San Francisco-based healthcare technology company that was founded in Hawaii, announced today that it has upgraded its email infrastructure to use the very latest industry standard protocol.

The announcement was made at the company’s annual healthcare cybersecurity and innovation conference, Paubox SECURE. This year’s event is being held virtually.

Paubox upgraded its secure email infrastructure to Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3, which provides unparalleled privacy and performance compared to previous versions of TLS and non-encrypted SMTP email.

Paubox specializes in secure email solutions for healthcare, and now offers TLS 1.3 email encryption for all of its solutions: Paubox Email SuitePaubox Marketing, and Paubox Email API.

“Upgrading our email infrastructure to support TLS 1.3 maintains our position as the market leader for HIPAA compliant email,” said Hoala Greevy, Founder CEO of Paubox. “Coupled with our HITRUST CSF certification, customers can trust Paubox to provide them with seamless, secure, and compliant email solutions.”

This year’s two-day digital Paubox SECURE event features registrants from around the country, interacting with top industry leaders through panel sessions, networking opportunities, and breakout discussions.

Keynote speakers at this event include Jeremiah Grossman, CEO & Founder of Bit Discovery, and Kelvin Coleman, Executive Director of National Cyber Security Alliance.

Sponsors include: HITRUSTBEYOND LLCHIPAA Ready, and Goodwin Law.

About Paubox

Paubox provides secure email for modern healthcare. Right out of the box. Paubox is rated as the number 1 Email Encryption Software product on G2.com and is a member of the 2020 Inc. 500 list. For more information, visit Paubox.com.

Virtual UH conference to explore post-pandemic innovation


The University of Hawaii has assembled leaders from diverse sectors for a four-day virtual conference on “Innovations for the New Normal.”

The event will highlight efforts in vital areas such as health care, resilient food systems and digital infrastructure to help promote economic diversification and stability as Hawaii endeavors to formulate an unparalleled economic recovery plan as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free series will be held on November 9, 10, 12 and 13 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and is presented by the UH Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and the Hawaii Business Roundtable.

Author, entrepreneur and marketing evangelist Guy Kawasaki will be among the featured speakers, along with Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson. The Thursday session also focuses on digital innovations, with panelists including Creighton Arita, CEO of ʻike and TeamPraxis, and Jason Leigh, Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Visualizations and Applications at UH Mānoa. 

University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization Executive Director Carl Bonham, International Vaccine Institute Director General Jerome Kim, and MAʻO Organic Farm Manager Kaui Sana are also on the program.

Innnovations for the New Normal

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Hawai‘i will be hosting, Innovations for the New Normal, a virtual innovation conference that will highlight our efforts in the areas of resilient food systems, health care and digital infrastructure — vital areas for the state in its recovery and economic diversification efforts.

  • November 9: Resilient Food Systems in the COVID Era 
  • November 10: COVID Propelled Innovations in Health Care
  • November 12: Digital Innovations for the New Normal
  • November 13: Next Steps to a Resilient, Healthy, Innovative Recovery

Register online for webinar series:

Schedule for webinar series:

$2.4 million federal grant funds workforce development program


The US Department of Education has awarded a $2.4 million grant to the Purple Maiʻa Foundation, a non-profit technology education organization, to support a new workforce development initiative.

The Hiapo Tech Workforce Development Program aims to upskill, train, and credentialize Native Hawaiians and other under-represented groups in the tech industry with in-demand Salesforce Administrator training to become employable, culturally and community grounded knowledge workers.

The inaugural cohort, named Papa ʻAʻaliʻi to emphasize resilience to challenges, began its 14-week journey last week. The group will learn the basics of the cloud-based Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) platform and aim to achieve their Salesforce Administrator certifications by the end of the training.

“We have a vision of Native Hawaiian excellence in contemporary digital technologies,” said Kelsey Amos, Purple Maiʻa Foundation co-founder. “Skills like Salesforce are in high demand. Training and certification can translate into a career that supports a family, regardless of a person’s educational background or experience.”

The Hiapo Program’s Salesforce Administrator training, as well as training and work-based learning in other in-demand technology and IT skills, traces its roots back to the support of Nakupuna Foundation for planning and early piloting in 2019 and 2020. The new program will run from fall 2020 to fall 2021 with the support of a grant of $829,807 from the Native Hawaiian Education program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Grant funds cover 100 percent of the program in year one, with similar funding amounts likely to be awarded for years two and three if program outcomes are good.

According to a white paper by IDC, from 2019 to 2024, worldwide spending on public cloud computing will grow 19 percent a year and during this six-year period, Salesforce and its ecosystem are expected to create 4.2 million jobs worldwide.

Salesforce can be applied to automate and personalize customer service and marketing and has powerful support for analytics and application development.

The Purple Maiʻa Foundation’s other programs focus on teaching coding and computer science to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth across the state of Hawaiʻi. But Purple Maiʻa has experience with adult programming with the Purple Prize, a technology innovation competition and social impact incubator. The foundation is ready to apply its experience to the up-skilling adult workforce demographic that the Hiapo Program serves.

About Purple Maiʻa Foundation

Purple Maiʻa Foundation is a technology education nonprofit whose mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of culturally grounded, community serving technology makers and problem solvers. We support Indigenous values in contemporary tech culture. By teaching students to innovate as Indigenous technologists, we can be part of a global shift toward growing more sustainable societies.

Molokai gets expanded fiber broadband service


Nearly half of the homes on the island of Molokai now have access to fiber broadband service, after Hawaiian Telcom added about 700 new homesteads in East and North Central Molokai to its service area.

More than 300 locations in Kualapuu and more than 350 in Ualapue have access to broadband with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gig) download and 300 megabits per second (Mbps) upload. One gig speed enables multiple connected devices to run bandwidth-intense applications like streaming video, cloud-based services and video conferencing simultaneously without sacrificing quality.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that broadband is a necessity in today’s world,” said Su Shin, President and General Manager. “As a company that’s committed to Hawaii, our goal is to extend the reach of our broadband service to as many locations as possible so more local residents can work and learn from home, access healthcare, purchase essential goods and services, and most importantly, stay connected to loved ones and to the world around them.”

Hawaiian Telcom’s rural broadband deployment is partially supported by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund, which is aimed at expanding broadband services in rural areas that are unserved or underserved. Hawaiian Telcom has invested more than half a billion dollars in expanding its fiber network, and has successfully deployed broadband service to more than 10,000 homes and businesses in rural areas statewide over the past five years.

Qualified locations will receive a mailer with instructions on how to order service. For questions or to check availability of services, consumers can visit hawaiiantel.com/molokai or call toll-free 643-FAST.

About Hawaiian Telcom

Hawaiian Telcom, established and headquartered in Honolulu since 1883, offers a full range of services to business and residential customers including Internet, video, voice, wireless, data network solutions and security, colocation, and managed and cloud services – all supported by the reach and reliability of its next generation fiber network and 24/7 state-of-the-art network operations center. For more information, visit hawaiiantel.com.

Hawaiiverse launches to help local businesses grow online


Hawaiiverse, a new website showcasing local vendors and entrepreneurs, launched this week to help Hawaii’s small businesses reach a broader audience online.

The free marketing platform offers special coupons and weekly giveaways to help residents find the best deals and support local businesses when many are facing huge challenges. The site’s free business listings are promoted to more than 25,000 Hawaiiverse followers on social media.

Hawaiiverse was born on Hawaii Island in 2016 as a video project documenting historical and cultural sites. However, the pandemic prompted its founders to pivot their focus toward preserving and supporting the small business community statewide.

“We all need to band together as a community to support local businesses through these tough times, which is why we decided to make our platform free,” says Hawaiiverse CEO Jared Kushi. “And we intend to continue doing what we’re doing long after the pandemic is over.”

“Hawaiiverse is for everyone — customers and businesses,” says Taylor Martin, CTO at Hawaiiverse. “Whether you’re a massive company or a small side hustle, we can help. We make sure there is no barrier to entry for any legitimate business operating in Hawaii.”

Hawaiiverse is run by a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs who are currently volunteering their time to advance their mission. In fact, all team members have full-time jobs.

“That just goes to show how serious we are about this project and how much it means to us,” Kushi says.

“Hawaiiverse is the best,” says Ashton Obrero, owner of Creative Natives Hawaii, which now offers ukulele instruction online. “I just love how it supports local. It helped me reach further out to the local community that I want to teach.”

“Hawaiiverse is helping Waikiki Dive Center and the community by bringing everyone together and doing this free advertising for local businesses,” says Elizabeth Cory from Waikiki Dive Center. “Local community is so important in a time like this, where we’re all struggling. Coming together is really an important thing.”

Hawaiiverse also features a weekly video series called “Hawaiiverse Spotlight,” in which Hawaiiverse vendors teach viewers new skills and tell the story of their business.

Hawaiiverse has already hit a few milestones, including:

– 21,000+ followers on Facebook and 4,000+ on Instagram.
– Over 220 Companies on O’ahu and Hawai’i Island.
– Partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and Propeller-USA.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the Hawaiiverse team on this initiative to support local businesses statewide,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii President Sherry Menor-McNamara. “Helping our businesses survive the devastating consequences of COVID-19 and building a brighter and stronger future for Hawaii will take these kinds of partnerships and initiatives.”

Hawaiian crows headed back to captivity after recent deaths


The coalition of conservation partners working to recover the ‘alalā (also known as the Hawaiian crow) are working to address recent challenges that have affected the population of the species living in the Pu’u Maka`ala Natural Area Reserve (NAR) on Hawaii island.   

Several of the birds have died, many due to predation by ‘io (Hawaiian hawk), so conservationists are bringing the remaining  ‘alalā back from the wild into the conservation breeding program at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC).

Having successfully lived in the wild for a few years, these birds have knowledge about foraging, predator avoidance, and other social behaviors that could be passed on to the birds residing within the conservation breeding program and aid with future recovery efforts. 

“For the last three years it has been encouraging to see the released birds transition to the wild; foraging, calling, and flying in native forests,” said Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, a biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and the coordinator of The ‘Alalā  Project. “It is important to ensure that these surviving  ‘alalā are able to pass on the skills they have learned in the wild to future generations of the species.

“While very difficult, bringing these birds back into the breeding program is an interim step to the review and adaptation of the program to recover the species,” she added. 

ʻAlalā have been rare for much of the 20th century, with fewer than 100 birds remaining in the wild by the 1960s due to habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive mammalian predators, introduced diseases, and perhaps other unknown factors. ʻAlalā became extinct in the wild in 2002, preserved only at the KBCC and Maui Bird Conservation Centers managed by San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG).

This conservation breeding population became the source for the reintroduction of ‘alalā beginning in 2016 to restored forests in the NAR. The reintroduced population, closely monitored by conservationists with DOFAW and the SDZG’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, has survived for the last few years, even attempting to breed in the wild.

Recovering the ʻalalā in the wild will take many years. By working as partners and utilizing tools such as conservation breeding the road to recovery will be similar to the recovery of other reintroduced species.  

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to the recovery of ‘alalā,” said Michelle Bogardus, Maui Nui & Hawaii Island Team Manager of the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “Strong conservation partnerships are essential for the recovery of threatened and endangered species. Working together, the many partners in The ‘Alalā Project will determine the next steps for this iconic species.”

“San Diego Zoo Global has a depth of experience in recovery programs and we are confident that we can work with our distinguished partners to address this challenge and continue our work to recover the ‘alalā,” said Paul Baribault, chief executive officer and president of SDZG. “This species is important not only to the recovery of Hawaiian forests but also to Hawaiian  culture, and our organization is committed to creating a world where wildlife and people thrive together.”

“We remain committed to this project and have always known that there would be some setbacks and challenges along the way,” said David Smith, administrator for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “Fortunately the project has an extremely knowledgeable, dedicated and passionate team and we believe this level of care and consideration for the ‘alalā, will hopefully in time, see a re-establishment of a wild population.”

The recaptured birds will rejoin the population of more than 100 ‘alalā being cared for within the SDZG’s conservation breeding program. As the dedicated project staff are working tirelessly to recapture and protect the remaining birds, they are driven by the vision that the goal of ‘Alalā recovery is still attainable.

About the ʻAlalā Project

The ʻAlalā Project is a partnership between major partners of the State of Hawaiʻi Dept. of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and San Diego Zoo Global. The project is working to establish a self-sustaining, wild population of ʻAlalā that fulfills its roles (ecological, cultural, etc.).

Citizens can help researchers monitor coral health with new color card


Hawaii marine scientists have developed a new tool called the Hawaiian Koʻa (coral) Card to help monitor coral health and coral bleaching in Hawaii.

Oceans are changing at an alarming rate, which has severe consequences on many valuable ecosystems, especially coral reefs. The card will allow citizen scientists to help measure the extent of coral bleaching in Hawaiian waters.

Coral bleaching a process wherein corals lose their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which provide a significant food source and color to their coral host. The white coral skeleton is then visible through the transparent tissues giving a “bleached” appearance. Mortality will occur if the coral and symbiont relationship is not re-established quickly.

The card is free to the public and available for pick-up at the Division of Aquatic Resources Offices on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii Island and other select sites.

Kuulei Rodgers, a researcher at University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) and senior author of the paper, and Keisha Bahr, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and lead author of the paper, set out to develop an inexpensive, rapid and non-invasive coral health tool that could be used by the public to assess and report on coral health and bleaching severity. The research was published in Springer Nature Applied Sciences.

An easy and effective field method of determining the severity of bleaching is comparing different shades of color over time, between sites, and coral colonies. With the increasing occurrence of coral bleaching events, there was a pressing need to standardize observations across resource managers, community members and scientists when capturing the changes occurring on reefs.

“With our waters getting warmer, we don’t have the capacity to monitor every reef for bleaching and mortality. We needed more eyes in the water, and we needed to equip them with a tool to quantify their changes,” said Sarah Severino, a research assistant at HIMB.

How to use the Hawaiian Koʻa Card

Researchers using the Hawaiian Koʻa Card.

The Hawaiian Koʻa Card is a waterproof color wheel, divided into four sections that represent the main color groups of corals found in Hawaiʻi. Each section of the card has colors that have dark to light shades, which represent the stages of coral bleaching.

“To use this tool you basically go up to the coral in the water, hold the card up, and you want to try to find the color that best represents the whole coral colony,” said Anita Tsang, a graduate assistant at HIMB’s Coral Reef Ecology Lab.

Each color on the Hawaiian Koʻa Card is represented by a number. When assessing a coral colony participants can report their coral health observations online through the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System and view coral health conditions across the State of Hawaiʻi.

“A similar coral health color chart was developed in the 2000s for corals in the Indo-Pacific and has been very successful, but those corals are not well representative of the corals’ colors in Hawaii,” said Bahr.

Community involvement leads to action

Researchers using the Hawaiian Koʻa Card.

Since the development of the Hawaiian Koʻa Card, Bahr, Rodgers and their team have conducted several outreach and training events to reach resource managers, educators, students, community groups and individuals.

“It will allow us to identify where coral bleaching is happening and also identify areas of resilience, where we can focus our efforts,” said Tsang. “And that way managers can actually take action and directly address these issues.”

“In the past, resource users’ observations were the most effective way to determine coral reef conditions,” added Rodgers. “The Hawaiian Koʻa Card restores this skill and trains ocean users to detect these differences, giving individuals and communities a sense of kuleana and mālama for their reefs.”

Find more information about the Hawaiian Koʻa Card and where to get one online or visit HIMB’s Coral Reef Ecology Lab.

Native Hawaiian college program receives electric vehicles for training


The University of Hawaii Maui College’s (UHMC) Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Educational Program received a donation of two 2012 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (EV) from Hawaiian Electric to provide mechanics hands-on experience in maintaining and repairing EVs.

The Public Utilities Commission approved Hawaiian Electric’s proposed donation to the UHMC Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Educational Program in July after the company retired the aging vehicles from its fleet on Maui.

Established in 2019 as a result of community feedback collected by Hawaiian Electric and with a grant from the Native Hawaiian Education Association, the new program was developed to provide Native Hawaiians and other Hawaii residents, especially in rural areas of the state, career opportunities in the emerging field of EV maintenance and repair outside of original manufacturers’ warranties. This donation will be the first all-electric vehicles used for the program.

“We’re excited the donated EVs are taking on a second life as a hands-on learning tool for students in this specialized field,” said Sharon Suzuki, Hawaiian Electric’s president of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities. “We appreciate the University of Hawaii Maui College and the Native Hawaiian Education Association for offering this valuable training that further promotes the adoption of EVs to help offset the use of traditional fossil fuels on our islands.”

The new program also addresses a need that came up during discussions Hawaiian Electric conducted with the Molokai community.

“There was interest in EVs, but residents pointed out if they invested in the vehicles there were no on-island EV technicians who could provide servicing and repairs,” said Gregg Kresge, Hawaiian Electric’s electrification of transportation project delivery manager. “In further discussions with the vehicle mechanics on Molokai, all were enthusiastic about participating in EV training if it was available. Through collaboration, the University of Hawaii Maui College and the Native Hawaiian Education Association made this possible through this new program.”

The program held its first training session in June 2019 with all seven mechanics from Molokai participating in the inaugural class.

“We’re grateful to Hawaiian Electric – and specifically to Gregg and his electrification of transportation department – for recognizing a need on Molokai and taking action,” said UHMC Chancellor Lui Hokoana. “Working together with UHMC and the Native Hawaiian Education Association, not only are all seven of Molokai’s automotive mechanics now versed in servicing electric and hybrid vehicles, but our own automotive technology students are benefiting from the donation of these two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. Partnerships like these move our community forward.”

Gigerati offers gig work opportunities


To meet the extraordinary demand for jobs, a trio of Hawaii-based entrepreneurs launched a new website to match freelance workers with employers.

Gigerati is “a smart online platform that matches available gig work with a local community of qualified gig workers,” with a mission to help businesses thrive by creating and connecting them with people who are looking to work while maximizing flexibility and opportunity.

The site launched in beta yesterday, according to cofounder and app developer Brian Dote. He said the first phase of operation includes a collaboration with the McKinley Community School for Adults.

“The timing is perfect, the need is there,” Dote told HawaiiTech.com.

Currently serving the island of Oahu, Gigerati offers delivery and non-delivery gigs in a range of industries including retail and restaurants.

In a volatile and uncertain economic environment, Gigerati says most local business owners must pivot to an on-demand operating model to survive. Meanwhile, to ensure financial resiliency for Hawaii families, workers need to find a way to explore new employment opportunities while maximizing work schedule flexibility to earn extra income.

The pitch for local employers.

In addition to Dote, Gigerati’s three founders are David Oyadomari and Maggie Dang. All three previously worked at Bank of Hawaii.

Dote is the former Senior Vice President and Director of Mobile and Digital Commerce at Bank of Hawaii, and is an experienced, patent-holding mobile application developer. He was a leadership team member at Apple where he developed core iOS patents and technologies prior to launching his own app development firm, Tapiki.

Oyadomori served on the managing committee at Bank of Hawaii where he held positions in Retail digital-physical transformation, online & mobile banking, ATMs, Contact Center, Deposit, Payments, and Lending Products.

Dang is the former Executive Vice President at Bank of Hawaii and brings over 20 years of strategic marketing & planning, client experience, process improvement, and training & development experience.

Workers must be 18 years of age or older with a Social Security Number or I-9 Visa, be able to receive SMS text messages and online payments via Paypal or Venmo, and have access to a computer with internet access.

The service is free for gig workers, while employers will pay $9.99 per matched worker.

Gigerati Flyer for Gig Workers
The pitch for gig workers.

Gigerati notes that is a platform, and not an employer itself nor an employment agency, although it does provide support, answer questions, and resolves issues between gig workers and employers who participate.