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Plenary Panel Discussion: Digital Citizenship in Aotearoa New Zealand

Identify as Taonga – the key to digital citizenship

Plenary Panel Discussion: Digital Citizenship in Aotearoa New Zealand with Andrew Weaver and guests. Blogger: Helen Cooper 

Tēnei te mihi ki  ngā kaikōrero i hora i ngā whakaaro mō tēnai mea, te tuakiri matihiko.

Andrew 2At the plenary panel discussion, Andrew Weaver (Digital Identity), Te Aroha Grace (Nū World Ora),  Tony Eyles (Department of Internal Affairs), and Neha Khemani (Mattr Global/Spark) led uLearn19 delegates through an enriching conversation about Digital Citizenship in Aotearoa New Zealand. The opening challenges were to first consider how we treat identity in a digital world, and then to explore ‘what a uniquely NZ Aotearoa digital identity would look like’.


A huge mihi to the audience who kept a rapid pace in the flow of questions to stretch the panel, mine their thinking, which enabled a rich discussion to ensue.


The panel expressed a vision for New Zealand Aotearoa as a country where everyone can fully participate in society by confidently expressing their digital identity. Panel participants were united in their mission to make this aspiration the right of every single citizen. As the audience, we were challenged to confront our personal responsibility to contribute to this mission.


Digital Identity acknowledged that “identity means means different things to different people, but digital identity is how people are recognised online”. They strive “to create a digital identity ecosystem that enhances privacy, trust and improves access for all people in New Zealand”.  Their data indicates the 79% of New Zealanders are concerned about their digital identity. In particular that their information might be hacked, on-shared without permission, or used in ways not foreseen, and for which they did not give consent. With statistics like these, there is an urgent need to explore how best to guide, educate our learners and communities.

Andrew graphic 1


Barriers that sit behind these statistics include aspects such as portability, transparency, technical language, particularly the inaccessibility of ‘terms and conditions’. Consider for one moment the complexity of ‘T and Cs’  and the groups across our communities who might find these a barrier to their understanding and control of their identity and data.  

Andrew graphic 2


With 76% believing that they lack the education to feel in control of data and digital identity, the data provides a strong motivation for us to consider our roles and responsibilities. It also motivates us to explore the potential of digital identity as a powerful enabler for inclusion, productivity, privacy and security. Done poorly, the risk is it will have the opposite effect – distrust, exclusion, invasion, manipulation and exposure. With the stakes so high, it can be overwhelming to consider as educators what role we might play in this mission. How do we grow understanding of citizenship in the digital context, what does that mean and might it look like in our practice? How do we work towards trust, privacy, and consent in order to grow community?


Tony talked about his mahi with Department of Internal Affairs, their programme of policy development, and an evolving ‘trust framework’ designed to provide a map for a digital approach that aims to enable and protect users. He described the current approach as chaotic across the community, acknowledging that there is room for more regulations to try and create more trust. What’s exciting is that this policy work is being developed from the ground up, in collaboration with community, hapū and iwi who are fully engaged in the ‘digital’ conversations. Concepts being explored include who has the right to attest to someone’s identity in digital contexts.

Neha reminded us that technology is a great enabler but only if it has a human content as an explicit driver with considerations for privacy, trust and enablement.  


Reflecting on the barriers, the impact of dominant cultures and organisations was noted by panellists, and that we need to make digital information accessible to all members of our community. For example, how can we help elders’ understanding about digital identity?  Supporting them to access and experience technology so that they are both equipped as citizens to engage with agencies, remain connected, and have opportunities to share their knowledge, identities and stories that in safe respectful ways are good possibilities. Making processes clear, transparent, and fun will help them to stay connected. We also need to rethink learning contexts and foster opportunities for the young to teach elders, empowering all. We were challenged to think about creating the contexts and conditions for one generation to learn from another.Neha


As we contemplated our role as educators in this complex area, Te Aroha threw us a lifeline. He used a te ao Māori lens to guide us, imploring us to consider what a uniquely Aotearoa/New Zealand digital identity model might look like, and how might we draw from the powerful concepts of whakapapa, mana and taonga. He shared his fascination for identity, notions of spiritual identity, how we might begin from an emotional perspective when we consider digital identity. He asked, does digital data have a spiritual layer, might it have tapu, how do layer these dimensions across digital technology? He shared his position that our nation has been trying to love itself  for 179 years, and using that understanding as a base, how do we now create digital content that honours our whakapapa? How do respect and connect the disconnected? How do we teach the importance of respecting mana in digital environments?


So, what is our role as educators? If we are tasked with the responsibility to prepare learners as digital citizens, this also means building understanding around data security, the technology  and the risks. But how is that even possible, if we don’t feel we know anything about it? These are not insignificant challenges!


Te ArohaTe Aroha guided us to consider Professor Mason Durrie’s health framework “Whare Tapa Wha”, his holistic model for wellbeing.  How might frameworks such as these guide us to explore the notion of Identity as Taonga, as the key to Digital citizenship. Durrie’s philosophy presents a four-sided whare representing four basic beliefs of life: Te Taha Hinengaro (psychological health), Te Taha Wairua (spiritual health), Te Taha Tinana (physical health), and Te Taha Whānau (family health). How might these pou guide us in conversation within centres, schools, kura, and whānau to consider the importance and potential impact of digital content on these four aspects of psychological wellbeing?  Consider the concept of Tapu – at what level does this digital content exist, how might different people view it? Might digital content have Mana, does it or the person it represents have agency? Might digital content be considered in relation to Māuri, what is its life force or essence?


When guided to think about the impact of a social media post on te taha whānau, their family health, what might that look like? What strategies might they employ to consider how to pause and think about the implications a photo on Instagram might have on someone’s psychological health – te taha hinengaro?  This affirmative approach guiding learners to recognise data about us as precious, as taonga, provides a clear pathway for guiding meaningful choices, awareness, enablement and agency to make informed decisions. If we recognise our data as taonga we can guide support tamariki to value themselves, respect themselves and others, and make decisions about digital data and content that honours self, whānau, mana and wairua. Considering digital content through a te ao Māori lens means we can honour the articles of Te Tiriti.


What a powerful place to start our conversations with our tamariki and whānau!


We need to help people respect themselves if we are to help them respect their identity, and their digital identity. It’s a matter of self-sovereignty for users to have control of their data and digital identity,  and it’s the responsibility of technology to make that feasible and accessible for everyone.

Andrew 1

We were challenged to recognise that currently it’s about dominant cultures and money but collectively, collaboratively we can change that. We need to understand New Zealand in relation to the global context. We are Aotearoa New Zealand and our strength is in our uniqueness, our recognition that language, culture and identity sit at the heart of who we are. It’s important that technology solutions are context specific, appropriate for our people and our heritages. Hence the importance of framing conversations across our communities that our digital identity is a taonga, something to be held, cherished, protected and enabled. When we share our pepeha it is with respect, when we share information online we need to offer the same respect and have conversations about tikanga, the evolving protocols fit for taonga.


We hope participants left the discussion more informed and confident to engage our kaiako, tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities in deep and rich conversations.


Our starting place is understanding ourselves as citizens of Aotearoa, a small but powerful nation, learning daily how to listen and who to listen to, making policy from the ground up, so it reflects who we are and where we are from… so that we can all walk towards a future where we value our Identity as Taonga – the key to our digital citizenship.


Graphics courtesy of Andrew Weaver, Digital Identity New Zealand

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