By Mitchell Pham, Chair of the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand.
Members of Pasifika communities in Aotearoa who work in the digital space gave us the same message last week that we’ve heard from many others: you’re not uncovering anything we don’t already know — we’ve been saying the same things for decades.
We, the Digital Council, don’t have any magic answers to entrenched barriers and inequities, nor the singular power to change them. We’re becoming acutely aware ourselves that at times the problems themselves become the problem. We become stuck and wearied at the enormity of what is broken that we need to fix.
Seeking out what’s working
So in this week’s update, as we near the end of a particularly challenging year, we’re seeking out what’s working. While we’re hearing, and acknowledging the challenges being faced by communities, we’re also seeing impressive collective community efforts that are in service to the digital learning, connecting, growing and wellbeing of Pasifika communities in Aotearoa.
Here is some of the community effort we have heard about so far.
- Organisations such as Pacific Business Trust supporting Pacific businesses to prosper, which includes realising the benefits of and managing the pitfalls of digital platforms.
- The Generator helping enterprising people bring their ideas to life.
- MakaNet bringing connectivity to Pasifika homes.
- Vaka Tautua delivering disability, mental health, older peoples, financial capability and social services in the greater Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury regions.
- Code Avengers building online learning platforms that grow confidence in a digital world.
- The Southern Initiative supporting a prosperous, resilient south and west Auckland.
- Numerous STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiatives attracting and growing young people into the science and technology space.
- Coconut Wireless, a self-funded online platform which celebrates and promotes all things Māori and Pacific in Aotearoa, and offline advocates for Pacific people entering into STEM.
- The 20/20 Trust providing digital inclusion research, programmes and leadership.
- Time Cloud software producers providing pathways for Pasifika software developers and engineers and supporting Pasifika people to own and run their own software as a service companies.
- PBTech supporting South Auckland STEM programmes and raising awareness of digital inclusion.
- IBM partnership with The Warehouse and two Auckland schools, looking at pathways into technology, providing mentors, workplace visits and internships, and encouraging young people into STEM programmes.
We know these are just some of the many initiatives happening across Aotearoa. Our intent is not to endorse or give a profile to one over another. It is to highlight the cumulative collective effort that needs backing.
It’s clear just from the attendees at our Pasifika Town Hall that we’re not lacking initiatives. Our Pasifika communities are innovative, have some impressive digital and data expertise, and are committed to developing and using data-driven technologies for the learning and growth of their people.
Boost the best of what is already there
The pace is slow and much happens off the back of a committed, visionary, often unpaid few. We’ve been told that people are tired of all talk in government and no action — the intent might be there but the implementation falls short. Our message to government agencies and the technology industry is to find ways to increase the scale and reach of the best of what is already happening.
With this in mind, as a Council we’ve committed to putting together a sub group from our Pasifika Town Hall to explore ways for Pasifika organisations to connect into existing tech industry groups such as NZTech and their tech alliance.
One of the participants in the Town Hall said “we exist because people are simply not doing what they should”. Another way to look at it is that the right people are doing what they’re meant to be doing. That is, bringing their ancestry, language, culture and tradition together with technology to help their communities navigate and flow with the ever changing tides of the modern world.
- Last week we met with the Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) Coalition to work through the findings and possible recommendations from our research into trust and trustworthiness in automated decision making. We then met with representatives of key government agencies to also discuss the findings and possible recommendations.
- Our Chairperson, Mitchell Pham, and Deputy Chairperson, Rachel Kelly, chaired and moderated at the Government Digital Transformation Summit last week. You can find Mitchell’s opening comments here.
- This week Mitchell Pham will present at the Internet Service Providers Association New Zealand conference, talking about the role of ISPs in digital inclusion.
- Mitchell also presents to the NZ Defence Industry Association’s IDEAS 2020 summit looking at trust and trustworthiness in automated decision making.
- We’ll be following up on last week’s Pasifika Town Hall, discussing with attendees how we can create opportunities to connect initiatives with the technology sector.
- Next week we’re hosting a Supply Chain and Logistics Town Hall session. We’ll discuss opportunities to help realise the innovation potential within this sector and how that impacts the New Zealand economy.