Digital Maori Forum History

In early 2008 a group of Maori ICT business owners were being left out of the economic development opportunities that flourished in the ICT industry.

We were here before there was any talk of money for Maori in ICT and we’ll be here long after that money is gone. We do what we do because we believe whanau, hapu, iwi and marae should be given the opportunity to shape their own digital futures.

These business owners decided they needed to address those areas that would enable Maori to develop in or into the ICT industry at all levels.

Initially the focus was on Maori economic development at the highest levels. But because these founders needed to stay within their skill sets, it was decided the aim was fixed on the Maori ICT economic development. The kaupapa was and is the Maori ICT industry, be they businesses, educators, practitioners, and providers, with the word “industry” encapsulating them all, but knowing that most members would be in an ICT business of some sort the economic development kaupapa was a requirement.

Then after a Te Huarahi Tika Trust Annual Public Meeting on the 20th of Oct 2008 a small group of Maori ICT practitioners and business owners got together to discuss Maori participation in ICT. In those discussions it was identified that there were no organisations setup to encourage and support Maori in or into the ICT industry.


Later those associates and others were invited again by Te Huarahi Tika Trust to be part of a workshop on Maori Information and communications Technology in Wellington on Wednesday, December 3, 2008, After the Hui some of the attendee got talking about who were helping to get Maori into the ICT industry. A small group went away and did some personal research to find who were the groups or organisations that were in place supporting that outcome. It was found that there were many groups trying to provide those outcomes but in the wider business context and with the lack of knowledge of those organisations it was found that their focus was set on primary industries and not ICT.

After a year of frustration looking for support by Maori organisations a group of Maori came and talked at a Rotorua Hui that lasted till 3am. At this Hui it was decided by those Maori ICT leaders that they would gather Maori industry players together to find solutions to the issues that were keeping Maori out of the industry and away from the ICT economic opportunities.


So an initial Maori Hui was called and 38 Maori ICT practitioners, educators and business owners gathered in Hastings on the 15th -16th and 17th September 2010. As Maori industry leaders this group knew the Internet dramatically changed the way goods and services are produced, delivered, sold and purchased. Which would lead to an ever-growing number of Whanau and Maori businesses connecting digitally, thus making them ready to participate in and contribute to the knowledge economy? It was also noted that in Aotearoa (NZ) the use of the Internet would empower Maori business owners and whanau into the global economy, by providing them with information and knowledge they could not previously access. During this initial Hui it was moved by Bradley Walker of the Native Council to name our group the Digital Maori Forum and we would become a Maori ICT industry group that would be developing a strategy for the future that included supporting Maori in or into the ICT industry that included the economic opportunities.

During the course of the year and knowing the lack of involvement by Maori in the governments broadband initiative some of our group were in discussions with the big players about the initiative and then were asked to culturally lead Telecom and Vodafone into a meeting with the Maori party. By keeping those organisations culturally safe in that meeting it would lead to our group of Maori ICT leaders being left out of the Maori Rural Broadband application submitted to Ministry by a group that were meant to be there for Maori.

This again fueled speculation about who were helping Maori in or into the industry and especially the connections industry.

With massive support from Te Wananga O Aotearoa a special DMF rural broadband Hui was called. This Hui was the first time all the major broadband players like Telecom, Vodafone, FX Networks and the selected Maori applicant group Torotoro Waea were in the same room to discuss and report the progress of the Rural Broadband Initiative to Maori ICT industry leaders, with them also were representatives from Ministry of Economic Development, FOMA and spectrum claimant group.

The presenters were positive and really supportive of the DMF and wished to work with us on the broadband initiative. During this Hui it was moved that a statement by the DMF said that as Maori we had an obligation to openly support the spectrum claim which was accepted by all.


Thing were starting to happen with Te Puni Kokiri inviting the Digital Maori Forum to a Hui in Wellington to discuss the commonality that Maori organisations had to assist Maori in or into ICT sector. But sadly this Hui was solely setup a select hand picked people onto ministry group called Nga Pua Waea which would not include Digital Maori Forum members or spectrum claimants. Knowing that and being excluded the DMF had a huge task of being accepted as an unincorporated society by MED, which would ultimately exclude the organisation from discussions in ICT initiatives for Maori.

So a strategic planning Hui was called with limited resourcing again the group came together on the 24th and 25th of October 2011 and at this Hui there was a draft strategy drawn up with the main goal of creating the DMF as an entity.

With the economy crash and the lack of funding the process became labored with a lot of the group having to solidify their businesses. The group then slowly started to put more time towards the draft strategy designed. After discussions with group members it was decided by invitation to meet with Minister Sharples to talk about creating ICT projects that would ultimately be an advantage to Maori on all levels. At this positive Hui there were two ICT projects put to him and he was excited about them being developed, but the Minister Sharples advised that the DMF would have to form a legal entity so as their ministry could support DMF to implement those outcomes and become part of other Maori ICT creations.

After attempts to achieve this goal the founding members of Potaua Biasiny-Tule, Quinn Nahi and Reihana Sciascia realised that the initial kaupapa had been diluted. It was decided to call a special DMF Hui in Rotorua where the attendee decided it was time to strengthen the initial kaupapa and formalise the DMF into an incorporated society called the Digital Maori Forum Inc. The constitution was finalized and DMF was legally formed in early 2013 and an interim executive was elected to deal with all issues till the first AGM
But because the DMF had spent the majority of their energy on accountability back to the industry the creation of other representitive groups were being touted as doing the job DMF were doing and at a Hui in Rotorua late 213 another Auckland group came to instill the thought that DMF were tainted and irrelevant we listened but kept going forward knowing all the hard work would be helpful in the future.