What’s wrong with the Māori Innovation Challenge? A tauiwi perspective #digmyidea



Māori Innovation Challenge DigMyIdea is promoted as way for companies to get a “foot in” New Zealand’s digital door.

(By Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule)

DIGMYIDEA is a new initiative which seeks to “encourage” Māori Innovation. The kaupapa of the challenge is to grow Māori involvement in Aotearoa’s digital economy.

The problem is… it’s open to non-Māori.

What? Yep – so what happened to tino rangatiratanga and the need to create self-determined, self-defined strategies, by Māori, for the world, to enhance not only cultural strength but economic strength? I guess someone missed that lecture… that protest… that waiata…

The contest is run by The Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) alongside Ngā Pū Wāea and this is how it is being touted on ATEED’s website:

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Now that doesn’t feel very Māori Innovation-ish at all does it… Actually Māori look to me to be an afterthought – a token in name only.

Another critical question that has been asked by those offering critiques of the initiative is how will they measure whether DigMyIdea actually does improve Māori participation in the digital economy when they don’t don’t require participants to be Māori?

We don’t need “flashy” ideas that have no kaha.

While we definitely need ideas LIKE this, they need to be better thought out. There is considerable putea being spent on this and the fear is that it’s just another “flashy” idea with no kaha AND which actually ends up changing nothing.

Great ideas do exist!

In fact, TPK, Callaghan Innovation and NZTE came up with an awesome initiative, they are going to fund 100 web development scholarships for Māori at at a cutting-edge academy, now THAT is strategic!  Ngāi Tahu is putting in $25k to get their own up there, now THAT is buy-in.

“Need a foot in the door in New Zealand’s digital market?”

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that others will be clamoring for access pushing indigenous-centred and Māori focused ideas even further away from the centre. Ka tino hoha!

The playing field is already skewed against Māori in the IT and innovation sectors. Large corporates (Universities, PTEs, SOEs) all hold the cards when it comes to the funding (and more specifically access to it)

So just when it finally looks that there is an awesome opportunity for Māori to create their own strategies and tools with the “DigMyIdea Māori Innovation Challenge” it’s actually not the case at all.

To confirm this we found the following on the remixmagazine.com website, a quarterly lifestyle, culture and fashion mag produced in New Zealand. And a quick look at how the competition is being promoted on other websites shows that Māori are just a side note, it appears in the name and once in the criteria “as having a focus on economic outcomes for Māori”.

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Māori have been told what they need, how to make it and how it should look for long enough.

So I’m of two minds, do we promote this to our networks and try to get as many MĀORI submitting as possible? If we do THAT will we find out that the winners are mostly non-Māori who are telling Māori how to enhance their own economic development/potential.

So either whānau, hapū, iwi and marae overwhelm them with ideas… and are successful or this is just another wasted exercise in misspent putea.

The judges better be good.

So it comes down to the judges, I seriously hope they are good, experienced and connected to Te Ao Māori.  I hope they actually believe that Māori have the capacity in this sector and give them the support they need.

Because Māori damn well have the capacity and bloody well need the support.

Bio – Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule

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Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 5.42.55 pmNikolasa Biasiny-Tule (Puerto Rican/Taino/Dutch) is co-founder of TangataWhenua.com, New Zealand’s most popular independent Maori news portal. She and her husband, Potaua (Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao) have been creating digital platforms specifically for indigenous communities since 2002 and have two young children.

Together, they worked with Merata Mita to promote and share Taika Waititi’s film Boy to Māori communities; and launched Google Māori, a project which saw Google translated completely into Māori, later they developed the first ever Māori News app. She is co-director of the Digital Natives Academy, a non-profit dedicated to teaching Māori youth to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. Her expertise is in creating, managing and monitoring digital content, creating web-based solutions and online marketing and promotions.


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