Hundreds of young Māori around the country are picking up the tools to a positive future in technology and the digital world through a programme backed by successful Māori entrepreneurs, and corporates. Tim Murphy reports. [Partner content]

Over recent generations, through Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Māori economic development, the needs of Māori and the vocations pursued by their young have progressively changed.

As Kirstin Te Wao sees it, Māori were entrepreneurs always adapting to societal needs of the time. Over the years this evolved from a focus on social areas like education and health, expanded into Law as the need was identified to have their own whānau within the profession working on claims, settlements and legislation – and into senior roles in the public service and economic development.

Now the need is technology skillsets, and young Māori are responding.

In the digital age, Te Wao (of Te Arawa and Waikato whakapapa) says, there is an opportunity to shift thinking to see technology and devices as digital tools, rather than digital toys. “Technology is interwoven in everything we do today, so exposing rangatahi Māori to digital career pathways, whether they’re vocational or institutional, provides another stepping stone on the path to equitable participation of Māori within Vodafone and the industry.”

Kirstin Te Wao of Vodafone

Te Wao is Pou Whakawhanake Māori, or head of Māori development, at Vodafone Aotearoa and her company is backing two events in coming weeks to help inspire young people through Māori success stories in the industry and to highlight digital careers.

“It goes back to the concept of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’,” she says.

Vodafone has a five year road map for Māori development, Whārikihia. It involves Māori representation at all levels of the business, meaningful community engagement through the Vodafone Foundation, integrating Matauranga Māori (knowledge) company wide, a targeted Māori business strategy, building enduring relationships with Māori entities, use and promotion of te reo, and being recognised as a trusted brand of Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

The first event is Ko Maui Hangarau, a summit in Otautahi, Christchurch on March 31 which builds on four previous summits around the country since 2018. Focusing on students from intermediate school age upwards, and those who are currently NEETS (not in employment, education or training), it aims to bring more Māori into the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder of Ko Maui Hangarau, Lee Timutimu, (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou) who is also a tech company owner, echoes Te Wao’s view that rangatahi need to see and feel the possibilities of careers in the digital world

“It’s really important for us to connect these kids into these pathways, and put successful Māori role models in front of them.”

He has been watching demand grow through Ko Maui Hangarau events since the first in Tauranga Moana three years ago. “There were plenty of events for Māori adults but not young people, so we just went ‘That’s us’.”

Given the ages of those attending it is still too early to measure direct results of rangatahi moving towards tech study or jobs, but the demand (around 400 attended Ko Maui Hangarau this week in Gisborne) and the responses so far, tells Timutimu the summits are filling a real need.

“We are really just connecting with something that has always been there. I’m a Māori technology company owner and one of the challenges we faced is there’s really no pipeline or resources coming through Māori communities with the requisite skills in this tech and innovation space.

“We are hungry for these people and for our youth to come through and help us, to take over this kaupapa into the future.”

About 4 percent of those in New Zealand’s technology industries identify as Māori and Timutimu, like Te Wao, believes it’s important for iwi, hapū and whānau that the representation and involvement increases.

“Iwi organisations – and this is a very broad brushstroke comment – they’ve been traditionally risk averse in terms of technology. Very few iwi organisations are adopting technology in the fullest capacity. It’s a bit of an unknown, and we do not have many Māori working in the technology sector. One of our goals is to try to increase that percentage, putting kids onto the pathways and I believe there will be a shift in general and in iwi organisations, in particular, as supporters of future generations.

“Now the future is technology. That’s where the future is.”

At the Ko Maui Hangarau summit next week, around 150 students and others will hear from the Ministry of Education, Vodafone and technology leaders and entrepreneurs including Vincent Egan, who runs a creative media business which has created pathways for rangatahi Māori, and Dougal Stott, of the Inspire academy which runs a Māori and Pacific programme for young people to gain tech skills.

The one-day event will also involve hands-on workshops and a competition and prize giveaways. To register go here.

Rangatahi engaging with the technology at Ko Maui Hangarau

The second event Vodafone is leading is in partnership with TEDx at its Auckland offices and via livestream on Tuesday April 21.

Speakers are Dr Warren Williams Operations Director of the Waikato-Tainui college for research and development, and Kaye-Maree Dunn, managing director of Making Everything Achievable.

The TEDx event aims to help people connect the dots between Te Tiriti o Waitangi and technology, while highlighting Māori leaders in the sector and the need to ensure organisations have an inclusive and equitable work environment where not only young Māori, but everyone, can thrive.

Dr Williams wrote a thesis on the factors influencing Māori participation in the technology industry. He suggested more IT entrants and current IT professionals who hold a Māori worldview grounded in cultural values that promotes innovation and creativity, would benefit not only Māori but the IT industry and the nation.

Dunn, who has worked in the public and private sectors and helped businesses in the far north, is a tech entrepreneur who focuses on quality governance, enterprise and data sovereignty.

Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Jason Paris made news this month when a customer dissatisfied with the company’s use of the word Aotearoa, te reo and its ‘wokeness’ threatened to leave and take her business elsewhere. Paris’ three word reply was simply: “Haere rā, Catherine.”

Te Wao says of her boss’ response: “We’re really proud to have a leader who walks the talk, and leads out on our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” an organisational policy the company launched to coincide with Matariki in 2020.

Since then, Vodafone signed a strategic partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, a first in the tech sector, which included Matakahi internships with Ngāi Tahu graduates. Storm Waugh is one of Vodafone’s latest Matakahi interns, who later landed a permanent role as an Automated Test Engineer within the company’s IT team.

Coming through Vodafone as a Matakahi intern has opened many doors for me,” said Waugh. “My decision to pursue a career in tech was simply because I enjoy it and there are so many areas I can branch out to. My one piece of advice is to take up opportunities and to never underestimate your capabilities.

Vodafone chief executive Jason Paris, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett, and executive consultant Julian Wilcox, at the signing of the agreement with Ngāi Tahu.

Vodafone Aotearoa is a foundation supporter of Newsroom 

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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