Wānanga works to carve a pathway for Māori Artificial Intelligence

2 September 2022

Participants came from all around Aotearoa to take part in a two day hui to identify a pathway for Māori Artificial Intelligence

A hui that brought together Artificial Intelligence experts from all over around the motu has started laying the pathway for the future of Māori data sovereignty.

The Māori AI Wānanga, hosted by the AI Institute, TAIAO and Tikanga in Technology project teams at the University of Waikato earlier this week, stretched over two days and included workshops and discussions around understanding AI, decolonising algorithms, Māori involvement in AI and where AI in Aotearoa should be heading.

University of Waikato Associate Dean, Māori, Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan (Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whakaaue) says the timing is right because Māori have an opportunity to shape AI and how it can best benefit Māori.

“AI fits into all fields. We’ve had people talking about it in terms of the environment and how AI can lead us through the environment. Some have been talking about language and how AI can assist us with language, using AI tools to speak Māori, have conversations in Māori and speak back to us in Māori.

"We’re trying to shape the AI that's already happening so that it's more appropriate for Māori, as opposed to being detrimental to Māori.”

University of Waikato Associate Dean, Māori, Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan (Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whakaaue) says it's time to start shaping AI for the benefit of Māori

Te Taka says there’s a lot of data now available, which is necessary for good AI, but not all data about Māori is under Māori autonomy and authority, and that’s something that needs to be rectified.

“We need to get access to and ownership of the existing data so we can start using it for Māori purposes, not just government purposes. And we need to repatriate that data, so Māori can protect, maintain and refine that data in a manner that is suitable to Māori.

"Data has been collected by government agencies from a colonial perspective. What we really want to do as Māori is to be in a position where we collect our own data from our own perspectives, because it will look different,” Te Taka says.  “The true essence of Māori data sovereignty is when Māori are not accessing data from someone else, as a perspective of someone else's collection, but when we're actually defining, creating,  shaping, storing and having authority over our own data, collected from our own unique world view.”

Māori data sovereignty, in its truest form, is a long way off, but the conversations and connections that have been made over the last two days are shaping a pathway to this future.

“We’ve got Māori researchers working in different sectors and working on different problems – we’re getting them all thinking along the same lines so that ultimately, we can combine our work for the greater benefit of Māori,” Te Taka says.

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Quality Education Decent Work and Economic Growth Reduced Inequalities Climate Action Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions Partnerships for the goals

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