A belief in the power of digital to solve big issues and a desire to produce mana instead of money is what led Te Aroha Morehu into the position of General Manager of Culture and Identity, and as of last year, the role of a Chief Innovation Officer at Ngati Whatua Orakei. He’s held the culture and identity role for two years now, and the Chief Innovation Officer is a role he will be pursuing having proved its necessity. We asked him a few questions about his role and what he loves about it.
- What led you to where you are today?
It was my Dad’s vision to bring home a 486DX personal computer with a 100 Megabyte hard drive that led me to where I am today. This was in 1990 and it cost around $6000, absolutely unaffordable, but an investment he was willing to make. He put me on the leading edge of technology and I have never really looked back.
- What is an average work day for you?
There’s no such thing as an average day. My role is responsible for taking existing infrastructure and extending it to develop tools that inspire, teach and support the goals of our iwi and New Zealand as a whole. That means one day I may be creating augmented reality and virtual reality products to educate and entertain before spending the afternoon creating a new 3D interactive website. Other days I’m managing the installation and management of the high-speed fibre connection to our marae before heading off to clear and protect our ancestral cemetery from floods. While I’m doing that, I’m thinking about how to develop and construct hapū-centric digital infrastructure. The list goes on.
- What’s great about your job?
I’m in the enviable position of creating and designing our future rather than predicting it. But most of all my priority is to fill souls and not pockets. This is an unbelievable privilege that I hope everyone can experience.
- What does digital transformation look like at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei?
For us digital transformation is being on the leading edge as early adopters to fast track our trajectory to digital sovereignty. The key to that is the realisation that designs which are not sustainable are not strategic.
- Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is one of a growing number of New Zealand organisations focusing on digital transformation – why do you think that is?
Maintaining a sense of belonging is key to our organisation. Digital frameworks will assist in connecting our families to; each other, their cultural epicentres (marae) and to opportunities both in New Zealand and across the globe.
We also have a number of challenges and opportunities that we’re addressing, many of which can be solved with digital technology. One of these opportunities is tourism. Tourism is a storytelling industry and the stories of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are a valuable part of Auckland and New Zealand’s tourism offering. Augmented and virtual realities play a significant role in that space.
- Where do you see digital technology in five years?
Many areas of the knowledge economy are going to be transformed with artificial intelligence. This is exciting because it means we can focus on learning, evolving and caring for what matters while life-admin is cared for by technology. This requires a shift in our thinking and behaviour.
- How do you think technology specialists can contribute to organisations?
Tech specialists know that you are either creative or you die. They can move organisations away from the information age and into innovation taking the technologist beyond just caring for the organisation but also ensuring it is looking into the future.
- What would you say to people considering a career in technology?
Firstly, be prepared to accept change. And I’d ask the young to find a sustainable way of growing our future technologies and solutions. Currently the materials extracted and used to build our tech are harmful to our planet in terms of making it liveable for our future descendants.
- What emerging technology are you the most excited about and why?
Blockchain. We are in the process of designing a crypto currency which has the potential to transform our paradigm and the way that we experience the economics of mana instead of money. It is about the guardian way, and how we can socially engineer an appetite for protecting the world and its contents – including humans.
- What technology would you like to see more of in New Zealand and why?
Augmented, virtual and mixed realities. It will empower our children to see the potential and possibility of designing and experiencing alternate universes.
Keep in touch