Thinking bigger for the Māori ICT fund

Enspiral Dev Academy has been thrilled to watch the progress of Te Puni Kōkiri’s Ka Hao Māori Digital Technology Development Fund, a joint initiative with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

This fund has evolved to support initiatives that will create high value jobs, opportunities and visible results for Māori in digital technologies.

Dev Academy’s Rohan Wakefield states, “Considering one of EDA’s social outcomes is to see more Māori in tech, we saw an opportunity here to catalyse some of our current projects. We were disappointed that our bigger, bolder ideas were not supported, but we’re still very excited to present our Māori ICT scholarship and pastoral care ideas to the funding committee.”

Enspiral Dev Academy is a 15 week intensive, full immersion bootcamp where students learn the tools they need to become junior web developers. The programme is industry-led, based on learning by doing, and uses a ‘whole person’ approach to train job-ready developers with personal as well as technical skills.

Enspiral Dev Academy is applying to Ka Hao to extend its existing Te Uru Rangi Māori scholarship programme, which works in partnership with iwi, Te Puni Kōkiri, Callaghan Innovation and NZTE to financially support more Māori students on to Dev Academy’s web development course.

This funding would enable Enspiral Dev Academy to offer Te Uru Rangi scholarships of $7000 each to 42 Māori students in 2018. The funding would also enable Enspiral Dev Academy to employ a kaiako and iwi liaison person specifically to support Māori students on their learning journeys.

More ambitious ideas rejected

“It’s great that Te Uru Rangi has the possibility of being supported by Te Puni Kōkiri — it’s a pre-existing programme so there’s evidence that it works and we have existing infrastructure to support it. But our other ideas would have been gamechanging for Māori technology education in Aotearoa, so we are disappointed that they won’t be backed by Ka Hao.”

Wakefield says that Dev Academy initially applied with two ideas to remove barriers to tech education faced by regional Māori communities.

“Those barriers are the lack of a kaupapa Māori curriculum that suits Māori learners, and the lack of trained teachers who feel confident to deliver ICT education.”

Dev Academy proposed to use $400,000 over 2 years to work with iwi partners and the Māori Language Commission to build a free web development programme for Māori, based on their existing web development programme. Dev Academy already has a successful history working in partnership with Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua and Ngāi Tahu, among others, to support Māori learners.

“Our existing programme is highly successful, we’ve seen over 200 students graduate since 2014, and around 80% go into web development jobs with average starting salaries over $50k within 4 months of graduating.”

These include 21 Māori graduates who are now working in organisations like Datacom, Enspire Group, Xero, and Signify. Many have chosen to be self-employed and entrepreneurial. One graduate, Kendall Flutey (Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu) has founded financial edtech company Banqer and won a number of awards and accolades.

“There’s tremendous scope for this programme to be entirely reworked to suit Māori learners, Māori tikanga and speakers of te reo Māori in an kaupapa Māori environment.”

Wakefield said the curriculum could help students gain credits at NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3.

With $800,000 over 3 years, Dev Academy also proposed to develop a teacher training school, to support practitioners to be able to deliver this curriculum with confidence into 27 regional Māori PTOs, Wānanga, Kura kaupapa, and tech hubs.

“One of our past Dev Academy students, Pouramua Kupenga, has already shown an interest in this aspect. Pou has the ability and acumen to be a great teacher, and her uncle has already established a tech hub in Ruatōria. Even without the funding, we’re going to give her the education to teach web development, so that she can go back and help her community.”

Going ahead anyway

Despite receiving feedback that these more ambitious aspects of their proposal would not be supported by the Ka Hao fund, Dev Academy has decided to go forward and try to achieve its goals without it.

“Our proposal would completely transform the skills gap that is rapidly growing between Māori and non-Māori in terms of access to technology education. It’s unacceptable that Māori, particularly Māori from the regions, are at risk of being left behind in this area, as technology is absolutely essential for the successful businesses and entrepreneurs of the future. If we don’t get this education to people who need it, they will be left behind — condemned to low level jobs, rather than gaining the skills to be the makers, doers and creators that can produce successful, world-changing businesses that benefit Aotearoa.”

New Zealand’s tech industry recently released its Digital Future manifesto highlighting the importance of technology in developing a prosperous future for the country.

But Wakefield notes, “we see huge sectors of society that aren’t getting access to technology education, who will therefore be unable to participate in this country’s future.”

“If technology hubs in the regions had access to our free, open-source kaupapa Māori curriculum, and teachers trained to teach it, it would be a complete gamechanger. We feel that this is a huge opportunity that’s been missed by Ka Hao. But we’re so passionate about the idea that we’re going to try to doing it anyway.”

Wakefield notes, “In saying that, we still believe the Ka Hao fund is an amazing initiative and it’s wonderful to see such high-level, creative government support for Māori in ICT.”

“We’ve heard about some of the other proposals that might be going ahead through Ka Hao, and there’s no doubt that they’re absolutely phenomenal and incredibly exciting initiatives and businesses. We love this fund, we love what it represents, and we are very keen to collaborate with the ideas that are coming out of it. We’re disappointed, because it would have been a huge help, but we’re going to carry on. This is a hurdle but we’re going to get over it and achieve it.”

Pouramua Kupenga and Dev Academy’s Ka Hao bid were recently featured here:

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