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Researchers to examine Māori perspectives on ethical data management

01 Oct 2020

University of Waikato associate professors Māui Hudson, Tahu Kukutai, and Te Taka Keegan have secured funding to pursue a new research programme that aims to explore Māori approaches to collective privacy, benefit and governance in a digital environment, with a view to increase the benefits to Māori and reduce data harm.

The Tikanga in Technology: Indigenous approaches to transforming data ecosystems programme focuses on how Tikanga Māori and Mātauranga Māori help to shape digital identities and the relationship with data.

“Rapid advances in data linkage create vast potential for improved wellbeing as well as major risks for group exploitation so we need a profoundly different approach to individual data rights and protection - one that recognises collective identities,” says Hudson. 

“Our project will look at the tools, processes and mechanisms we can offer the community of developers to enable ethical use and to generate more equitable outcomes for Māori.”

The researchers hope their findings will reveal indigenous perspectives about data management, which IT workers can then use to guide data collection, storage, processing, and remove bias from algorithms.

“Tikanga in Technology includes projects co-designed with Māori communities, which allows us to help build flaxroots data capability and do research that meets their priorities and aspirations,” adds Kukutai.

Te Taka Keegan adds that he is looking forward to applying his experience and passion to research that will help indigenous perspectives to shape technology, particularly artificial intelligence. He has been involved with technology projects such as the Māori Niupepa collection, the Microsoft Keyboard, Windows and Office in Māori, Moodle in Māori, Google Translate, the Translator Toolkit, the Macroniser and SwiftKey.

The programme also links Mātauranga Māori and data science and has strong support from stakeholders across Te Ao Māori and Government.

“Ongoing discussions about Māori data sovereignty are occurring beyond central government, but even though the private sector appears to be further behind, I think indigenous data sovereignty is an area where Aotearoa New Zealand can lead the way,” says Hudson. 

“We have a global advantage in Indigenous research and, with funding for projects like this, we can continue to optimise this edge to transform data ecosystems so that they are beneficial for indigenous peoples.”

The research team plans to make publicly available a range of tools, frameworks and principles that will promote ethical and equitable engagement, with data grounded in Te Ao Māori world views.

The programme is due to start in October.