What we’re hearing

We're providing commentary on and insight into the big issues impacting trust, inclusion and innovation.

About the dilemmas that come with digital

Digital and data-driven technologies have phenomenal potential for learning, growing, connecting and wellbeing. They can also have significant negative impacts on individuals, communities and society.

How is it that we can embrace something and fear it at the same time? See its harms and yet use it? Be comfortable with it in one context (eg facial recognition for passports) and not in others (eg facial recognition used by police)? Reap its benefits and simultaneously reject it? How do we navigate this digital dichotomy? How do we make our own decisions about what is best for us? Or have we just given up trying?

People are acutely aware that they are making trade-offs when they use digital and data-driven technologies. Trade-offs in a trustworthy environment require reciprocity, or mutual benefit. 

The government and the industry need to uphold that they are developing and using technologies with care and good intent—and for the benefit of both parties, not just one.  

Digital and data-driven technologies are tools. Like any tool, their impact depends on how they’re designed, built, and used. On WHO decides how they're designed, built and used. On WHO designs, builds and uses them. And that their vision is grounded in honourable intent. 

About inclusion

Aotearoa still needs to grow its digital moral fibre.

At least one in five New Zealanders is not engaged in the digital world.

Digital dilemmas are embedded in social dilemmas. These became starkly clear during the COVID 19 lockdown.

The government, industry, philanthropy and communities rallied to increase access to hardware, software, knowledge and information. Those platforms were harnessed to connect, to learn, to stay well, to do business. Businesses scrambled and set themselves up online.

At the same time, inequities and issues of trust and privacy were heightened. The shift to digital platforms worked for some individuals, households and businesses, but not all.

On the one hand the rapid switch to online working and connecting surfaced new advantages for those less mobile. While for others it exacerbated social inequalities. Some households didn’t know how to use the devices they were given, or couldn’t afford the data when other costs increased.

Some SMEs didn’t have the knowledge to switch online, or were nervous about privacy for their customers. Those that did found few New Zealand owned platforms to use. They turned to large international e-commerce platforms.

You can read more in our blog, Using the dilemmas of COVID 19 to inform design

About digital leadership

We have “tourist-type” leadership.

This is a phrase coined by one of our guest bloggers, Kirk Mariner. His experience is that we have “tourist-type leadership on the issue of digital inclusion. That is, we visit digital inclusion hot spots, take in the sites, enjoy the views, have a picnic lunch and then go back home.”

This is not good enough for an issue that touches almost every element of our day-to-day lives. The oversight of digital and data-driven technologies is not something to be left to chance or individual whim. 

People we’ve talked to are seeking leadership at the national level. They also want to identify and grow visionary, talented leaders regionally and within industry and community. 

About trust in algorithms and artificial intelligence

People want algorithm systems to centre the needs, values, strengths, aspirations of their communities. This requires people with a diversity of experiences, cultures and world views to be included in designing services and decision-making processes that have significant impacts on our lives.

People want to know when algorithm systems are being used, how they work, and their effects on people and communities. They want clear, open communication.  

People are looking for algorithm systems to be implemented with care and consideration. This means:

  • clear rules, standards, legislation or frameworks to govern their use. This involves assessing whether they are implemented properly and enforcing them where required
  • collecting only appropriate data, and storing and using it in a way that ensures privacy and security
  • opportunities to exert choice and control over how their data is used. This involves actively seeking buy-in rather than assumed or “opt-out”
  • monitoring, testing, and maintaining algorithm systems effectively
  • building capability and skills around algorithms and related digital processes. This includes making sure people and communities can understand how algorithms work. It means making sure that people involved in implementing algorithm systems have the right skills and capabilities.

You can read more about this topic under the Trust section of our website. 

About Māori data sovereignty and trust

“We will trust the government when they trust us,” say some Māori data sovereignty experts. 

Te Tiriti needs to be a critical part of any conversations around trust. An important and somewhat ‘basic’ concept within this is reciprocal trust. The sharing of power is an important underpinning feature of the relationship between Māori and the Crown.

In relation to algorithms, “We don’t leave a carving in the rain”. How do we care for code in relationship to people? Code (algorithms) are relationships with people. We use algorithms to reflect back to people their lived experiences. How do we care for that code, adapt it and make sure it’s dynamic to change?

You can read more about this in our blog, Māori Data Sovereignty experts: "We'll trust government when they trust us".

About diversity in our decision-makers

I want to see myself in you – or know that you “get” me.

Those who often find themselves excluded, or not heard in decisions around technology want to see themselves reflected in the designers, developers, implementers, decision-makers and monitors of the digital and data-driven space. This includes designing, developing, implementing and monitoring government data and services.

We think they speak for everyone in wanting to see a technology industry that truly reflects Aotearoa. After all, the closer you are to the impact a decision has on you, the greater care you will take over that decision.

About lack of cohesion and strategy

There is a digital disconnect across and between government, industry and community. 

There are countless government and non-government digital and data-related reports, principles, blueprints, plans, strategies, charters, guidelines, pilots...you get the idea. They’re impressive in number. Many are sound in content. Few are mandated. Some have a vision. Each has its own objectives. Each has its own problem it is seeking to solve. Each has its own business owner. Each has its own Minister or Ministers. Each is tagged to its own government or community agency. Each has its own funding stream. Each has its own recommendations. 

These strategies and plans are a legitimate response to legitimate need. They have clear, albeit narrow intent. Some are making a difference. But to what cumulative, systemic or enduring intent? 

It’s time to fuse this digital disconnect across and between government, industry and community effort for best effect.

About online travel agencies

Tourism businesses are largely (75%) small businesses embedded in our communities. They shape experiences and memories through sharing their local spaces, places, produce and people with those of us from out of town.

So it makes no sense to us that the benefits of those relationships not only leave town, but leave the country.

We’ve heard various reports of 75–90% of bookings now being done online. Online travel agencies take anything from 15–25% of a booking in fees.

To our knowledge there are no New Zealand owned online travel agencies (they may have “.co.nz” in their URL, but have been bought out by overseas agencies). That 15–25% fee all goes offshore.

it’s time to open our minds to challenging the big conglomerates and controlling our own digital destiny. How can we build and take command of our own digital booking platforms — and not get gazumped by the big overseas conglomerates? How can we own our own data, the stories that data tells us (our stories), and the decisions it guides?

The real experience of Kiwi hospitality should not start only when you get somewhere — it should start the moment you think about us and look us up!

read more about this in our blog, Closed borders open eyes and minds to old ways and new possibilities

About the logistics and supply chain

Importing, exporting and moving goods around Aotearoa and the world comes with a long literal paper trail.

Up to twenty different entities require 10–20 paper documents. With much of the information each entity needs being the same.

The reliance on paper documentation, emails, faxes and old legacy computer systems is hampering the move to digital efficiency.

The movers want to move with the times. They're eager to engage digitally. Ready to accelerate. Primed to participate in initiatives that enhance the movement of goods. 

So what's the hold up? Old legacy computer systems. And the need to harmonise and standardise data systems. This would give industry players trust that they can share data freely and with confidence. 

You can read more about this in our blog, Getting the movers to move with the times.

About service to the people of Aotearoa

The problem with the problems can be the problem.

In laying out what we’ve been hearing, we’re acutely aware that at times the problems themselves become the problem. We become stuck and wearied at the enormity of what is broken that we need to fix.

Problems can slow us down. So we’ve also been seeking out the best of what is.

While we’re hearing, and acknowledging the challenges being faced by communities, we’re also seeing impressive efforts and innovations that are in service to the digital learning, connecting, growing and wellbeing of Aotearoa.

It’s clear that we’re not lacking shining examples of initiative, innovation, ingenuity and investment across the country. 

The people of Aotearoa are innovative, have impressive digital and data expertise, and are committed to developing and using data-driven technologies for the learning and growth of everyone.