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Maori data made more accessible

Data can help businesses understand the issues that Maori experience — and helping promote this message was the goal of Figure.NZ chief executive Ngapere Riley when she was in Tairawhiti during TechWeek 2021.

Ms Riley thinks that fundamentally, next to ethics, learning how to use data can be the most impactful thing people can choose to focus on.

“Why data? Why focus on information expressed as numbers?

“People think it is sometimes only for people into maths, scientists, accountants but it's not. It's for everyone to use and access,” she said.

“I believe data underpins everything we should care about as an advanced society — child development, business, land, arts and entertainment; this data supports all that work.

“We are living in a world where digital connection and access to information has changed rapidly, and is rapidly changing the way we live.”

Ms Riley wanted to create a tool that would make Maori data more accessible for people to use. That was when Callaghan Innovation backed the pilot project and Pataka Raraunga, maori.figure.nz was created.

Pataka Raraunga brings together data, tools and reports on te ao Maori. Data from reputable sources can be accessed and is free to take and use.

Ms Riley spoke about how data was seen as one of the most valuable assets in the world.

“Learning how to use and understand data is one of the most important tools of our time. Those who use data well can command big money. They will have a competitive advantage. People rely on it to help get investments.”

Not using the data could lead to poor decision-making, Ms Riley said.

“Very few people who serve the community would consider themselves as experts on data. Very few people know how to really use it.

“Data can tangibly help people on the ground in communities — it can reduce the waiting times in hospitals, improve the delivery of education to students in schools, it can help the way we care about elderly, it can help charities with funding applications.

“It is a really important tool for advancing society, and data can help those that are even less fortunate.”

Ms Riley spoke about the huge amount of data available today.

“How are we meant to navigate through all this data?

“The goal of Figure.NZ is to get Aotearoa using data to thrive — with the aim to create sustainable, transformational change through the democratisation of data, we build scalable technology which helps millions of people access important information about Aotearoa so they can make decisions for themselves and help make a better future.

“Instead of going through different sources and spreadsheets, we make it a little bit easier for everybody,” she said.

The Figure.NZ data sets have been built and designed to share.

“Even children can access it. It is all designed to share. You can download it directly to use in your own document,” Ms Riley said.

If people want to dig more into the data on Figure.NZ — which is a charity, funded by partners and donations as well as providing commercial services — the CSV files are available to look at as well as the metadata on where the information came from.

“Data is a taonga, it is something we need to protect — just like te reo Maori. To protect it, we need to speak it. We need to use the data and learn how to use it well,” Ms Riley said.

“It is like learning a language. Learning to speak a language does not just unlock how to communicate, it unlocks a whole new world view.

“There are so many valuable things we can learn when we look at the world, or the data, in a different way.”

DATA DRIVEN: Ngapera Riley, chief executive of Figure.NZ came to Tairawhiti for TechWeek 2021 where she spoke about the importance of using data. Picture by Trust Tairawhiti