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Protecting the Data Rights of NZ’s Māori and Indigenous People

Global Indigenous Data Alliance

Data is now considered to be one of the key enablers behind many of today’s big tech companies.

Billions of internet users each year produce vast amounts of data that is consumed, analysed and monetised by businesses that have embraced the big data era.

Together with the continued growth of the value of data, however, are the growing concerns that people have around data and its uses.

According to a recent press release, Māori and Indigenous people world-wide consider data as a taonga, or something that is highly prized.

There is growing concern among Indigenous communities that use of their data by external parties could lead to stigmatisation as well as cultural harm.

Global Indigenous Data Alliance

Two researchers from New Zealand’s University of Waikato have realised this, and are helping to pioneer a global initiative that seeks to restore control of data to Indigenous people.

Professor Tahu Kukutai and Associate Professor Maui Hudson recently aided the launch of the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA).

This provides an international forum for Indigenous people to collectively progress their goals for data sovereignty and data governance.

As a first step, GIDA has published its CARE Principles, which aims to provide the first international framework for the ethical use of Indigenous data.

CARE stands for Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility and Ethics.

Significance of the Initiative

GIDA is a step forward to ensuring Māori have rights and ownership to information that is considered sacred.

Data sovereignty has been a topic of importance among Māori for some time.

By ensuring that the Māori people have rights and ownership to their own data, they can continue to have a say in matters that are about and for them.

Having limited access to data can affect Māori when it comes to taonga species. An example of that is genomic data or DNA about organisms, which are of importance to Māori.

Māori communities agree to work on projects that generate genomic data for conservation purposes, but that data is made available across the globe.

When other people access the data for commercial purposes, there are no mechanisms to ensure Māori communities get to benefit from it.

Māori data sovereignty reinforces Māori rights and interests in data which necessitates their involvement in decisions about appropriate governance, access and use.

In terms of understanding what Māori data is, it is explained as information or knowledge in a digital form that is about or from Māori people, their language, culture, resources or environments, regardless of who controls it.

As data integration and data sharing increases, the issue of consent becomes ever more important.

Free, prior and informed consent should underpin the collection and use of all data from or about Māori. Less defined types of consent must be balanced by stronger governance arrangements.

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