Māori have been enthusiastic adopters of technology. With information technology (IT) the experience has been mixed. Iwi (tribes), Māori organisations and individuals have been at the forefront of a Māori and te reo Māori (Māori language) presence on the internet, but as a group Māori have been able to utilise the internet less than others in New Zealand.
The main representative body for Māori on the internet is the New Zealand Māori Internet Society (NZMIS). It was established in 1997.
In 2003 another body, Aotearoa Māori Internet Organisation, was set up, and then merged with the NZMIS.
The NZMIS was involved in the development of the .maori.nz and .iwi.nz second-level domain names. It facilitated consultation with Māori by a number of official bodies exploring Māori and information and communication technology, and has taken a leading role in furthering Māori interests on the internet.
Te Waka Wahine Wa-Hangarau (Society for Professional Māori Women in Information Technology) was formed to represent Māori women involved in IT.
Te Huarahi Tika Trust
The Māori airwaves spectrum charitable trust, Te Huarahi Tika Trust, was established in 2000 to enable Māori to have a right of purchase over the third generation spectrum (3G) radio frequency being auctioned by the Crown (3G allows super-high-speed transfer of data). Māori had sought rights to a share of the spectrum under the Treaty of Waitangi. It has a share in mobile network 2degrees.
Te Huarahi Tika held a national hui for Māori involved in the IT industry in 2008. They established www.nekeneke.com, a website to assist Māori in the IT sector to network and share information.
In 2003 Māori were identified as a group who were using the internet less than other New Zealanders. This so-called ‘digital divide’ meant that Māori had less access to the internet and to employment in IT industries because of limits on telephone access, lower household incomes and poorer educational achievement. In 2001, 25.3% of Māori had internet access at home, compared to 45.5% of Pākehā. By 2006 Māori internet access at home had leaped to 45.5%, but other New Zealanders’ internet access at home had jumped to 70.4%. According to the World Internet Project report in 2007, 62% of Māori, 72% of Pasifika peoples, 77% of Pākehā and 94% of Asians in New Zealand could use the internet at home. People who were younger, wealthier and more urban were more likely to have access.
Overcoming the divide
Private training establishments and tertiary institutions such as wānanga (Māori universities) have played a key role in closing the digital divide – in 2000 Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a tribal university, received an award for providing computers and training to all students and staff.
Scholarships for Māori tertiary students of IT were provided by EDS (an IT-outsourcing company), the Māori Education Trust and Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development).
There have also been specific iwi initiatives targeting the digital divide. For example Te Whānau-ā-Apanui engaged in a joint venture with multinational networking giant Cisco Systems to teach young Māori the Cisco networking system. They set up the Cyberwaka Training Academy in Wairoa, a predominantly Māori community, and provided a community hub of computers to enable internet access, known as Wairoa.com.
An IT support project for wharekura (Māori-language secondary schools), paerangi (Māori boarding schools) and isolated East Coast schools included computer equipment, video conferencing and networking assistance. The project enabled teachers to share knowledge with students from other schools and to teach topics where teaching expertise was scant – the teaching pool for immersion schooling is small. Kura kaupapa Māori have a high uptake of IT.