A new website has consolidated data about and involving Māori, making it easier for iwi groups, trusts and Māori communities to access the statistics that impact their lives.
A collaboration years in the making, the new Figure NZ and Callaghan Innovation website Pātaka Raraunga aims to make Māori data access easier for everyone. Consolidating thousands of data sets from hundreds of sources into one hub with tools, reports and graphs all about Māori, it’s been made to help Māori find out more about themselves.
Ngapera Riley, CEO of statistics website Figure NZ, knew creating a website of Māori data would be an ambitious project, but realised how hard it can be to access statistics often buried in ministry websites.
“Data is quite scary for some people, and it’s not just about pulling the data together, it’s about making it easier to find. There are 185 government agencies that collect data and most of them put it out in various sources, so we were trying to solve that problem with technology.”
Pātaka Raraunga has sections for Māori data including education, health, the economy and tourism, and includes a selection of tools and reports to help people put that information into context.
Tanya Wilson, Māori business relationship manager at Callaghan Innovation, says even those working in government agencies like her face hurdles when accessing relevant data. The tool will be useful for ministries and government agencies as well as private businesses.
“When we’re making decisions about how we better serve people, we have data from 2013 that we’re accessing for something happening in 2020. As government agents, our role is to serve the Māori people so we need to make sure that we have the right support and the right data in the right areas – especially for our iwi and our Māori communities.”
But sorting “Māori data” from “non-Māori data” was not a straightforward process in the development of Pātaka Raraunga. The environment section, for example, rarely references statistics that directly involve Māori, but Riley explains this is because the environment in Aotearoa is inherently a Māori issue.
“How do we define what’s Māori data and what’s not? You’re so connected to the land and the water and the forests as Māori, so the environment was something we put in there but there was no Māori-specific data. Hopefully that’s something that can change.”
The change Riley mentions is part of their long-term strategy to keep the site alive and updated with new data as it is released. With a poor turnout in the 2018 census, a lot of iwi-specific data was deemed unreliable by Figure NZ and left off the new site, but Riley’s still keen to get iwi data in the future.
“That data from the census was not able to be used because of the poor census results. Anything that’s deemed not to be safe or any information that comes out of the IDI [Stats NZ’s research database Integrated Data Infrastructure], where all of the private information is kept on people, that data does need to remain protected.”
“Data is a taonga” is a phrase used on the Pātaka Raraunga website to highlight the importance of Māori data, and Riley compares this to the idea that te reo Māori is a taonga to be protected through widespread knowledge and use.
She says access to relevant, recent data is imperative and while there will always be a threat that data is misused, the more public it is, the easier it will be for people to check for themselves.
Wilson says better access to data will only help Māori communities and businesses to make better informed choices about their markets and about their own people.
“We need access to our own information to make better decisions. We don’t always have that access and [Pātaka Raraunga] provides us with that, and it also provides us with knowledge of what information is missing.”
She’s excited to see how the platform develops from this point, with additional data from future studies contributing to a more enriched and accessible knowledge of Māori in Aotearoa.
“This is a living platform,” says Riley. “It will continue to be alive because we will make it come alive – the more data we have, the more information we can put forward and the more learning we can do from it.”
The hope, says Riley, is that Māori with better access to the information that concerns them will learn how to use their data as a starting point to create change.
“A lot of people try to use data to answer questions that they have but I would really like Māori and everyone to think of data in the opposite way. To ask questions of data can be so impactful and so useful. My hope is that more Māori people fall in love with data and see the value in it, not always to help understand business, but to help inform people’s point of views.”
While Māori knowledge wasn’t traditionally passed down via bar graphs and pie charts, what these resources tell us are similar to the stories of tradition. Wilson thinks data is just one of the things that can tell us about our past and inform our future decisions.
“Looking at the data of percentages of Māori with tā moko, I think about Gisborne, I think about Matua Derek Lardelli and the work he’s done in that region and the tā moko artists he’s trained. When you look at the age groups for that data and how low [tā moko rates are] for 55+, you can begin to make assumptions about what urbanisation did, what colonisation did to that generation. It tells a bit of history about our people.”
Wilson wants rangatahi Māori to have access to data that shows the positive things Māori are achieving, and thinks Pātaka Raraunga has the potential to be that resource.
“Māori are leading in some sectors, some industries. The more we see this, the more our youth of tomorrow are going to see it. At the moment they’re only seeing deficits, because that’s what they’re shown. Hopefully showing the other side will encourage our rangatahi to take those successes and take the data to create a future that is going to be beneficial for them, for their children and their mokopuna. That’s the hope.”
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.