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Callaghan Innovation partner with iwi to build data discovery platform

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Callaghan Innovation partner with iwi to build data discovery platform

Government technology and research agency Callaghan Innovation is working with two iwi, Te Atiawa and Tūwharetoa, to develop a data tool that will allow them to search, manage, and store the data and stories that are relevant to them.

The project is led by the iwi and aims to develop a platform called Iwi Data Discovery that will have cultural context implemented by ‘Story AI: kōrero mō ngā raraunga’, which roughly translates to ‘talking about data’.

It aims to allow Māori organisations to search for data and stories that relate to them with datasets that they already own or those that other agencies own and store Māori data within; to showcase co-design between iwi and scientists; and to support data sovereignty and access to data for iwi, Māori and eventually other cultural groups.

Te Atiawa and Tūwharetoa are making the decisions about what data they want to be able to find, and how to use it.

The project received NZ$855,000 from the Digital Government Partnership Innovation Fund in the 2021/22 funding round. 

A spokesperson for Callaghan Innovation told CRN that it aims to develop a story repository, to use machine learning to create an ontology that links connected stories together, and to create algorithms that can represent, blend and transform the stories.

“While this project is exploring the unknown, it will build on existing frameworks of the Data Science team’s ‘Data Discovery’ for New Zealand businesses. The relevant technology for the Iwi Data Discovery project has already been surveyed and includes data lakes, knowledge graphs, and semantic storytelling,” the spokesperson said.

Callaghan Innovation Māori business and relationship manager Tanya Wilson has strong Te Atiawa connections and will be facilitating iwi engagement throughout the project.

Data sovereignty is a major component of the Iwi Data Discovery project as data is a taonga, a cultural treasure, and must be treated as such under the Treaty of Waitangi.

“This project seeks to enable Māori organisations such as iwi to access their historical stories and data. The tools being developed are new mātauranga for Māori, and eventually, the project hopes to open the tool up for all Māori to have access to and shape their own ontologies specific to their whānau, hapū and iwi,” Wilson explained.

“The key is developing a tool which can be tailored to unique Māori organisations and iwi cultural nuances and considerations, as no two iwi are the same. It will be possible to tailor the tool to search for stories and data within each unique cultural iwi lens. 

“We’re building a machine that can be taught to search for stories within a unique Māori lens, that can be adjusted for specific iwi considerations.”

The project will run with an Agile approach within a Te Ao Māori-led environment, which the Innovation Fund supports, so that changes can be made where necessary. It is expected to be finished by the end of the year, thanks to much of the technical work being done in advance of the funding.

Wilson said that Callaghan is currently working with students from both iwi, one completing their Master’s in data science and another their PhD, and are looking for more rangatahi Māori to work with. 

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