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22 Nov, 2020 - 3 min read

Te Tiriti o Waitangi - a values framework for our digital future?

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi couldn’t be more relevant than it is today, to be the tool and template for collaboration and innovation” Sara Stratton, Master of Technological Futures graduate and World Economic Forum Global Futures Council contributor

In Sara’s own words, 1840 was a time where two nations stood looking out to new horizons. Māori saw the technology, new ideas, new opportunities that the British brought.The British saw the opportunity to shake off the shackles of their highly stratified society, get away from the massive consumption and pollution of the industrialisation era, the disease and poverty and reset, start again, in a different world altogether.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi was a way forward for both. It is an incredible document and was very radical for its time - it still is. In contrast to the colonisation process the British had been undertaking for the 200 years prior to 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi was positioned as a partnership. A completely new paradigm of governance for both nations. And despite how that has played out since then, the unique framework of relationship and partnership still remains. If we look at these key principles established back in 1840, through the digital lens of today, Te Tiriti o Waitangi could offer us a solid structure to move ahead into the future.

Just as the Maori of the mid-1800s saw the new technology and new opportunities that the British were bringing - and were fast to adopt and adapt - so too can we see these in today’s digital transformation.

And just as those two cultures realised then, we, today, need to be part of the wider conversation - to collaborate and bring the unique Maori values to the global table where the development, establishment and governance rules for a digitally-enabled world are being set. Because as Sara sees it, at this moment in history with pandemic threat, environmental crises and economic security for so many worldwide, the western principles of growth and the individual right to profit, at all cost, is a cost we can no longer afford to bear.

New leadership, new ways and new values are desperately needed.

In 1840, the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi were underpinned by the Māori whakapapa notion of relationship, people, planet and spirit. These were summed up later as Partnership, Protection, Participation. Fast forward to today, Sara believes that these principles could evolve to support our digital transformation: Connect, Consult, Collaborate.

Therefore the unique Te Tiriti o Waitangi could provide a framework for the whole world to use.

As Sara has expressed: “The global table is actually asking for Māori world views and values to take a seat, recognising this as a time when the western model doesn’t know what to do next or how, they are realising others may. And we as Māori do! We have in our DNA the stories of how to navigate uncharted waters, seek new destinations when needed and harness great energies. Hence my appointment to the World Economic Global Futures Council, Artificial Intelligence for Humanity, and I am part of the WEF working group for Re-Imagining Regulations for A.I. in New Zealand. Ursula Van der Leyen, President of the European Commission, recently said at the World Economics Forum Reset Dialogues, that global cooperation, multi-layered partnerships were the only way forward for a sustainable, fair future at this time of much upheaval”.

Sara is now an Adviser on the Master of Technological Futures programme where she shares the four articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Te Reo, Tikanga Māori values and ways of seeing the world, and demonstrates how they can be practically applied today, in any context.

They are an invitation away from the ‘either/or’ mindset, to think in an ‘AND-AND’ inclusive way.