Pacific Indigenous Data Use

A couple of interesting articles were published by Radio New Zealand regarding indigenous data use throughout the Pacific Islands.

First, a data sovereignty expert has warned Pacific people to be mindful of how companies could use indigenous data to profit. Keoni Mahelona of the Maori not-for-profit organisation, Te Hiku Media, said indigenous people had valuable knowledge, and their sovereignty and ownership needed certain protections.

Mr Mahelona, who is of Hawaiian descent, was speaking at the Kiwa Nuanua tech summit held in Auckland this past April. His current focus is on the revitalization of the Maori language using digital technology. “When we need tools to help us to do our mahi (work), often those tools are designed and sold by non-indigenous groups,” Mr Mahelona said.

He continued, “The ways they think about design and things are much different and so as indigenous people we have different values and it is important those values are reflected in the tools we use. For example how might we treat content associated with people who have passed away?”

Combining the Maori word for ‘guardian of the ocean’ and the Samoan word for ‘rainbow’ or ‘hope’, the Kiwa Nuanua summit aimed to motivate and inspire more Pacific people to pursue opportunities in the technology industry.

Cook Islander, Brittany Teei, instigated the gathering saying Pacific people had the potential to make huge inroads in technology. The software firm CEO hoped to inspire others to think outside the box and take ownership of their ideas.

She said preserving culture and heritage was a key too. “It is crucial that we bring it with us and in terms of preserving our languages and our traditions, I think time is of the essence for our older generation who are getting older and moving on and I think that the biggest opportunity at the moment, is to being able to capture all that knowledge before it is lost,” she said.

Ms Teei added, “From there the technology world is our oyster to being able to express ourselves in new and modern ways that still allow us to be Pacific.”

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Fish market, Suva, Fiji

The second article dealing with the issue of data use in the region is a concern from the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). This organization was established to help countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). They are an advisory body providing expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision-making on tuna management through agencies such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The FFA has recently claimed that the Pacific is facing big challenges as it embraces digital technology.

Ano Tisam, a FFA systems analyst from the Solomon Islands and who was also a guest speaker at the Pacific Tech Summit in Auckland, agreed that the way they capture data needs to change. He said that in the fisheries sector, work to digitize information was ongoing and labor intensive and that many organisations and governments in the region still used pen and paper.

Mr Tisam believes that to move ahead information needs to be accessible in a digital format and properly stored and archived. He said, “We used technology to help Pacific governments to move away from what they are doing in terms of paper, and transitioning them over to digital technologies so that they can improve the way that they do things to make things more efficient and more effective.”

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About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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