Maori in ICT: Update

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Kia ora whanau

It has been a while since we last connected and much has happened over the past few months.

First, we would like to pay tribute to matua Jim Nicholls, a tireless advocate for Maori and a man who was very passionate about our industry. As Chair of the National Maori Council, matua Jim was instrumental in bringing together te reo Maori practitioners alongside Maori in ICT to see how we could utilise technology to keep our culture moving, learning and growing. He was able to clearly see a way ahead and worked toward ensuring Maori had a strong place and presence in this modern age. We will miss him very much.

The 4 most significant issues to emerge have been the Maori Language Expo and Te Mangai Paho Conference (which happened side by side in Rotorua at the beginning of October 2010), the announcement by Antony Royal around his Rural Broadband initiative (RBi) project with OptoNet estimated at $150m, the upcoming Spectrum hui which will be held in Wellington later this week and the Digital Maori Forum which happened last month in Hastings.

The first was the Maori Language Expo and Te Mangai Paho Conference on reimaging Maori broadcasting. These 2 extraordinary events showed the amazing breadth and depth of Maori participation in te reo Maori learning and teaching, as well as the various mechanisms utilised by Maori to reach wider Maori audiences via the media. What impressed us was the enthusiasm each roopu brought to both hui and the heart-felt need each person felt in promoting te reo and tikanga Maori. What was interesting to note was that some of the arguments heard 10 years ago are still being heard today (around funding, effectiveness and recognising that majority Maori still spoke English as a 1st language). At the Te Mangai Paho conference, all the talk was around digital technologies and how Maori could best use skills, software, hardware and services to increase te reo Maori at home, at school, at work and throughout society. These were very dynamic discussions and we look forward to hearing more.

The next matter was a press release received last week, announcing that Antony Royal, spokesman for the Torotoro Waea Partnership, had put forward an expression of kaitiakitanga by the tangata whenua for the $300m RBi. This project is estimated at $150m and brought together a consortium of Maori broadband players from the Far North and from Otaki/Raukawa. Antony said The Torotoro Waea partners collectively have existing capability and experience in backhaul fibre, wireless, satellite, mobile and community networks. Industry partners led by Opto Networks are involved in the design, construction and delivery of a range of ICTT infrastructure and services. What we found intriguing was that 2 other Maori players SwiftNet, an existing broadband provider in the Hawkes Bay and TangataWhenua.com also placed RBis on behalf of their whanau but we never approached by Antony to participate in his project (prompting both to say Is the Torotoro project really about ALL Maori or just a select group of Maori?). Besides having the backing of Te Wananga o Raukawa and the powerful Whatarangi Winiata and courting support from the Maori Party, the announcement was lamented in that this project was for all Maori yet actually cut out other Maori from any substantive involvement. Concerns mounted in that this project looks set to again rip off Maori as was seen with 2 Degrees and Te Huarahi Tika Trust and may even set the scene for another corporate take over of what should have been a project that benefitted all Maori, and not just those with powerful backers.

The third, and probably most crucial, is the upcoming Spectrum hui, which will be held in Wellington this week. The National Government have already signalled that all TV transmissions will be digitised (Digital Switch Over or DSO) and that the old analogue frequencies will be switched over to digital formats and sold off. Added to this, the Government will auction large tracts of digital spectrum to big companies like SKY and TVNZ, opening up greater access to service and product development. Over the years, Maori have argued that spectrum is covered by Article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a taonga and that sections need to be set aside for Maori to continue broadcasting te reo and Maori content. This has been blocked by Minister Stephen Joyce and Cabinet who saw only the commercial nature of the spectrum and maintained that Maori had no claim to spectrum as a taonga. The hui then will give an update on the state of play, reminding us that the auctions will generate hundreds of millions for the Government and that Maori are still not protected by the flimsy assurances of the bureaucrats at MED or the Government. One of the fears expressed has been around the poor treatment of Maori by the Government, who look certain to again select a group of Yes Maori looking to cut a deal at the expense of the larger kaupapa. Conflict of Interest issues aside (Te Huarahi Tika Trust have hinted that they will take charge of any new 4G spectrum, possibly partnering with 2 Degrees but concerns abound that THTT do little for Maori in ICT and have lost more than they have won with the 2 Degree deal), there is still major concern that since no larger Maori ICT Strategy exists, those who negotiate will look to cut a deal, leaving the Government unchallenged and placing Maori in the weakest possible position. Worse, it could mean that another non-ICT group look after an invaluable ICT resource, who will again look to leverage away rights for assurances and watch the cash go into the coffers of another big business with very little directly coming back to Maori.

The fourth kaupapa was a recent Digital Maori Forum, in which 20 Maori ICT practitioners came together for 3 days to share stories, exchange information and to look toward developing a stronger network of support. For me, this was an extremely exciting initiative as it looked inclusively into what we as a group and as individual whanau are doing and started to plan around initiatives where we could all work together. Four invaluable themes emerged (which will undoubtedly be heard over the next few months) and we all await the report back from this incredibly successful hui. What had us buzzing was the fact that we all passionately believed that our mahi was appreciated by local whanau, that while we work under the radar and usually without pay, that we were all very much committed to keeping Maori relevant in this digital age. Thanks to all the team who made this exceptional hui happen and all the very best to those Maori whanau who are doing great things in the IT world.

Though it is only early days, it is reassuring to know that despite some of the missteps happening in our industry, there are still many dedicated Maori committed to supporting whanau and looking to develop success and excellence which will lead to direct benefits to all Maori.

Repeat: ALL MAORI.

Kei te mihi ki a tatou te whanau ipurangi. Mean Maori Mean!!

1 COMMENT

  1. Kia ora Potaua,

    Great work in keeping whanau informed, would love the opportunity to provide comment below.

    The Broadcasting hui was great in Rotorua, seeking to find a way forward in this area of digital convergence. I'm not sure if you saw the presentation I made, but the theme was around how fast we are all changing, Radio and especially TV broadcasters need to think about what this means in the new future. Once we have high speed broadband in place, consumers will have huge choice, and no longer constrained by the limited number of broadcasting channels.

    The Rural Broadband Initiative is a $300m grant funded from the old levies which used to automatically go to Telecom to provide rural services. The government came to the realisation that, we as a country weren't getting good value for money. Our family farm is 20 mins from the centre of Manakau City and struggles to get good dialup !!

    Myself, Daphne Luke and Roger MacDonald were asked to facilitate a M?ori led bid, which we have in conjunction with Opto Networks and a number of other industry groups. We have never claimed this is for all M?ori, but it is a "M?ori led bid" with a focus on enabling our communities and letting people who have communities as their primary focus lead the project, rather than those who have commercial imperatives as their primary goal. We have tried to include as many Maori groups as possible, however it has not been possible to get everyone on board, but have created a Limited Liability partnership model to allow others to easily join. We continue to discuss with M?ori and industry groups, and are more than happy for Swiftnet and others to talk with us (Perhaps at the hui coming up this Friday ?)

    Watch this space for more announcements showcasing how M?ori have the capacity to deliver high speed broadband.

    As for Te Huarahi Tika Trust, they have for 10 years taken the Crown's $5m and a right to buy spectrum (at a 5% discount) they have delivered 300 full time jobs, brought $250m of investment into Aotearoa, had over 1000 people at one point working on the project, will deliver over $1billion per year into consumers hands and owns approximately 10% of a business worth hundreds of millions. Not a bad effort say I .. and with little financial support from M?oridom.

    Spectrum Hui coming up this Friday, its a catch up on where we are up to, in addition, we've been asked to outline the proposal thats been put forward for RBI, so if you are interested, come along to the Brentwood Hotel on Friday the 26th of November at 10am.

    Ng? mihi

    Antony

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