7 People; 1 Council: Who We Are & What We Stand For

Blog | 2020-05-05 | By: Mitchell Pham, Chair of the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand
Seven Digital Council members photographed as a group smiling at the camera with three sitting and four standing behind them. Large picture windows with views of Wellington harbour behind them. Dark grey carpet on the floor.
Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand (Back row from left: Marianne Elliott, Nikora Ngaropo, Kendall Flutey and Mitchell Pham. Front row from left: Colin Gavaghan, Rachel Kelly, Roger Dennis).

As with any group, the members of the Digital Council for Aotearoa have many differences, while sharing important things like our values and principles in common.

Diversity as a strength

My own background spans 12 years growing up in Vietnam, two years in refugee camps in Indonesia and coming to New Zealand as a teenager. Next came tertiary education and involvement in the entrepreneurial world of software innovation (across many industries), building tech businesses, taking them offshore and leading business, industry and community organisations and advising government.

Roger Dennis, based in Christchurch, has a background in communicating big ideas about the future to audiences at home and abroad. His understanding of the lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes is second-to-none and every day you can follow his work on Twitter as he tweets up a storm.

Marianne Elliott is a trained human rights lawyer based in Wellington, as well as a researcher, writer and consultant who advocates for evidence-based solutions to the curly problems facing human rights and democracy. Co-founder of ActionStation Aotearoa (an online campaign platform) and co-director of The Workshop (a research organisation), she’s also an impressive trail runner and new mum.

Trained accountant and former web developer Kendall Flutey (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) was Young Māori Business Leader of the Year in 2018 and Young New Zealander of the Year in 2019. Not only that, Kendall, also Christchurch-based, is founder of education tech start up Banqer, which teaches young Kiwis about money and personal finance.

Colin Gavaghan, meanwhile, chairs the New Zealand Law Foundation’s Law and Emerging Technologies Centre at the Faculty of Law, University of Otago, where he also researches and lectures in medical and criminal law.

Rachel Kelly is an ex-scientist, strategist, business developer and marketer with 19 years’ experience in New Zealand’s science and tech sectors. Co-founder of the Waikato Technology Cluster and former Deputy Chair of NZTech, Rachel is also a member of the AI Forum New Zealand Executive Council.

Finally, Hamilton-based Nikora (Te Rarawa, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngā Puhi) is our Māori-led design and animation expert. Founder of NNMD Tech, a tech company that combines education and tech skills, he develops high-end digital and visual effects content, while also working with tamariki (children) to raise digital literacy.

Our core values and shared principles

So you can see we’ve got our differences. As we became the Digital Council of Aotearoa in February, we decided it was time to come together as a team and develop a set of core values and principles to guide our work and engagement. Here’s what we came up with.

Diverse voice on technology

As a Council, we want to contribute a range of views about technology. We want to support every day New Zealanders who are doing their best to make good decisions, provide for themselves and their families and whānau, and striving to fulfil their definition of success in an age where technology can either hinder or help.

Accountable and prudent

We’re committed to using our resources wisely, with care and in the spirit of public service. We’re here to support the Government’s ambition for a digitally-progressive, equitable and inclusive society.

Neutral and open

We’re not wedded to a particular technology. We’re impartial and politically neutral. We want our work and the information we draw on and publish to be easy-to-find and accessible.

Delivery focused

We’re here to do work that matters to New Zealand — i.e., the ethical and
accessible use of data and digital technologies. And we’re here to add value by adding to what’s already being done and suggesting new directions.

Stewards for New Zealand

We’ve got big goals. We want our work to maximise the societal benefits of digital and data-driven technologies. We want to help increase equality and inclusivity, wellbeing and community resilience in New Zealand. And we want to look beyond technology to the long term impact it has on our country.

Diverse and inclusive

We’re here to listen to your ideas. As the Digital Council, we want to hear a range of views and draw on a variety of expertise and communities of interest. That’s how we’ll achieve our goal of providing balanced and trusted advice to government.

A group who challenges the norm

Finally, while we value existing expertise and best practice, we are also willing to test assumptions, ask challenging questions and advocate for new norms in New Zealand’s digital and data landscape.

Smiling photo of Mitchell Pham from mid-waist up, body slightly left side on and head facing camera. Mitchell has short dark hair, a slight beard and glasses with upper half black frame. He is wearing a grey suit, white shift and light blue tie with yellow dots.
Mitchell Pham, chair, Digital Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.