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.
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.
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.
Traditionally members of whānau (extended family) and hapū (sub-tribe) lived together while those of an iwi (tribe) lived within a distinct tribal area. In the mid-20th century Māori, a largely rural people, moved in large numbers into the cities. This rural to urban migration, the Māori diaspora, led to the majority of Māori living outside their rohe (tribal area). Iwi members stay in touch by returning to home marae for hui, tangi or reunions. They have also formed urban-based groups linked to iwi, known as taura-here. But the internet has provided a new means for iwi interaction.
Iwi and hapū members can connect to their marae over the internet. One well-used site for marae is www.naumaiplace.com. Its aim is to have every marae throughout the country registered, so tribal members can access marae-related information through the site. It aims to connect whānau and marae around the world.
The Old Friends site also offers the option for members to sign up to connect to a marae, as well as workplaces or schools.
The internet has also provided a forum for people advocating Māori causes. Aotearoa Café is a site providing alternative stories and views to those in the mainstream media.
Most iwi have their own websites. There is a variety in the form of the domain names. Besides using .iwi.nz, tribal websites utilise .maori.nz, .co.nz and the top-level domain, .com, for example:
While content varies on tribal websites, they share the function of keeping tribal members in touch.
Iwi websites can contain:
A number of iwi have set up specific websites to assist in the revitalisation of their dialects. The Ngāi Tahu tribe has the Kotahi Mano Kāika website – ‘one thousand homes’. Their goal is to have a thousand Ngāi Tahu homes speaking Kāi Tahu reo (the Ngāi Tahu dialect of Māori) as a natural language of communication by the year 2025. Taranaki Reo is another site which includes information about language strategies. It lists events, and is making a digital archive for future students of the Taranaki dialect.
The large number of Māori in Australia has led to a Māori-focused site being set up. Māori-in-oz.com includes waiata, Māori-language resources and Māori news from both Australia and New Zealand. It also lists the increasing number of Waitangi day events that are being held in Australia. To their Kiwi cousins Māori in ‘Oz’ are dubbed kangaroos.
Māori university staff and researchers have utilised a telecommunications link known as KAREN, which provides high-capacity, super-high-speed connectivity between New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, research organisations, libraries, wānanga, schools and museums, and the rest of the world.
In a seminar series named Manu Ao (Māori Academic Network across Universities in Aotearoa) Māori staff and those with Māori research interests were able to hold weekly discussions via KAREN.
While the digital age has assisted Māori in many ways, it also has its disadvantages.
Cybersquatting on Māori and iwi-specific names has been a problem. In the initial rush of access to domain names many Māori and iwi-specific domain names were purchased specifically for resale to people who treasured those names.
Digitised information using Māori themes has also been a concern. Intellectual and cultural property ownership issues have arisen over the use and display of whakapapa (genealogies), and digitisation of paintings or photographs of ancestors displayed on the internet. Songs, stories and haka have been exploited by businesses, and computer games made by large international companies have used Māori themes.
A 2007 study showed that Māori using the internet utilised social network sites more than Pākehā – and the same amount as those of Asian ethnicity. Pasifika peoples used the sites more than any other group. The high use of social networking sites by Māori and Pasifika peoples led to the Electoral Enrolment Centre commissioning Bebo profiles for the 2008 election. Even the Māori king, Te Arikinui King Tūheitia, has his own Bebo site.
In 2009 there was a sizable Māori presence on the net. There were newspapers from the 19th and 20th century, dictionaries, including the first monolingual Māori dictionary, He pātaka kupu, and databases of tribal dialects, such as Te Papakupu o Te Taitokerau. Te Kete Ipurangi, a schools site, provided resources for kura kaupapa Māori and Māori immersion classes. Māori students also studied traditional and contemporary stories online in Te Ao Hou, a journal originally published in the 1950s to 1970s.
Initially the universal language adopted for the internet and computers was English, and so the Latin alphabet (used for English) was fully supported. There was almost no difficulty in displaying the Māori language on the internet and computers, as its alphabet was developed from the English alphabet.
The one difficulty was how to display vowel length. Short vowels and long vowels have been treated in three main ways:
Because of the initial lack of easy technical support for macrons on computers, people either replaced macrons with umlauts – Mäori – or created Māori language fonts, which replaced the umlaut with a macron (but meant that an umlaut could not be used). But by the early 2000s the ability to display macrons was widely supported. The macron is known in Māori as a tohutō (sign of length) or colloquially as a pōtae (hat). Marking vowel length became important as a generation learnt Māori as a second language.
On 29 November 2005 Māori-language versions of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office were released. The translation was a collaboration between Microsoft, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and Waikato University. On 24 July 2008 a fully translated Māori-language interface for Google was launched at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, a Māori university. It had been running for some years before its co-ordination was managed by TangataWhenua.com. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, Waikato University and a number of native speakers were involved in the translation of the search screen.
In 2008 there was no operative Māori-language browser, but a prototype Māori-language version of Firefox was available. There are Māori-language entries on Wikipedia.
A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of an internet address, such as .com or .nz. The name before a TLD is the second-level domain (2LD) – the most common in New Zealand are .co.nz, or .org.nz.
There are two Māori-specific 2LDs for New Zealand. These are .maori.nz and .iwi.nz. These 2LDs were initiated by the New Zealand Māori Internet Society (NZMIS), an organisation which represents Māori interests on the internet.
In web talk, internationalisation is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localisation is the process of adapting software for a specific region or language, by adding locale-specific components and translating text. In geek-speak these are shortened to i18n (there are 18 letters between ‘i’ and ‘n’ in the word internationalisation) and L10n. The Māori locale is known as mi-nz. (The locale for speakers of New Zealand English is en-nz.)
Initially the names available for domain registration were limited to English. Then there was a move towards making domain names available in other languages, called internationalised domain names (IDNs). This led to the ability to have a macron inserted into domain names – as well as maori.co.nz and maori.com web addresses, there are now māori.com and māori.co.nz.
In 2007 the NZMIS suggested a bilingual domain name system for New Zealand – each domain would have a Māori and an English URL, which would reach the same site. It would be up to domain-name owners whether to use one or both.
Translations of common 2LDs are:
The opening of new top-level domains has led to suggestions that Māori should create their own equivalent of .com, and establish a whole new Māori naming hierarchy, including a bilingual domain name system, and even tribal names. URLs ending in .māori or .aotearoa have been suggested.
The NZMIS has also suggested an Aotearoa domain with the TLD of .aa.