A group of Māori and indigenous information technology innovators are gathering in Hastings today and tomorrow to network and showcase their businesses, with the aim of encouraging more Māori to enter the Information and Communications Technology industry.

The National Māori ICT Hui, which features both national and international guest speakers, has been organised by the Digital Māori Forum (DMF) to bring those in the technology industry together to share experiences and korero with others about future opportunities.

One of the speakers is technology entrepreneur Mikaela Jade, an indigenous woman belonging to the Cabrogal people from the Darug nation, Australia, who has launched a start-up company, Indigital.

Indigital is breaking new ground with the digital ranger app that Ms Jade has created using non-internet based augmented reality and other technological tools to provide a new way of learning.


Three years in development, the app uses postcards featuring images of indigenous art that people point their phone at to trigger augmented reality storytelling - the image comes to life and informs the viewer about the artwork through ancient song and dance.

Another app will do the same thing with national parks and places.

"I came up with the idea after I saw a demonstration of augmented reality in 2012 and thought it would be great to use as cultural capital to bring the tradition and culture of the older generation to the younger generation.

"I had to work out a way to make it a sustainable economic model, and so it's targeted at tourists, but it's also about getting kids, who are always on their phones, re-engaged in culture."

Challenges included working with algorithms to enable the apps to be triggered without an internet connection, and also securing capital to get the project off the ground.

"Being a woman and indigenous in the technology space is difficult. Investors consider it risky."

She put her own money into it initially and then spent months pitching the concept to investors.

"Luckily I got to meet the prime minister in February and got a government grant to assist."

She said such innovations in the digital economy could help solve the problems small, isolated communities face when their young people leave to be educated and don't come back, resulting in a brain drain in communities.

"If you can create digital content and use the digital economy you can make money at home."

Digital Māori Forum member and conference project manager Rei Sciascia, who is based in Hawke's Bay, said this hui and the speakers, such as Ms Jade, could provide valuable insights and help motivate local people to replicate such innovations and tap into the digital economy.

"The new 'real estate' is digital - we are heading into a new world and we need to be prepared," Mr Sciascia said.

"The aim of this hui is to do something for the future, for our kids, and use technology as a vehicle to make things happen."

Another keynote guest speaker is New Zealand animation pioneer Ian Taylor, founder of Animation Research Ltd (ARL), which covers sports events all over the world, including the America's Cup through its groundbreaking mobile app.

Mr Taylor was inducted into the New Zealand Hi-Tech Hall Of Fame in 2009, and in 2013 was named Outstanding Māori Business Leader of the Year.

The conference and its speakers will also explore issues such as data sovereignty, technology breakthroughs, small business start-ups and New Zealand ICT-based information such as the $30 million ICT Fund.

For more information on the hui go to the website www.nmih.nz.

● The DMF has been instrumental in the RBI movement with New Zealand telcos Spark and Vodafone, the Māori spectrum claimants, and advocating for the $30 million ICT Fund.