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Harnessing emerging technology to improve Kiwis’ lives

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We are excited to share that we have formed an Interim Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. This follows engagement across sectors, to ensure its fit for purpose, providing practical guidance and advice that addresses the current and emerging needs of government and beyond.

The Interim Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

Improving people’s lives with emerging data-driven technologies

In an increasingly digital world, the power and potential of data-driven technologies are immense. We want to harness the positive power of these emerging technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive, and equitable future for Aotearoa New Zealand.

To do this we need to address the complex ethical issues that arise from data and data-driven innovations. It is crucial that we uphold privacy, freedom, and trust. And, in the unique case of Aotearoa, ensure we have a data system embedded in te ao Māori which appropriately reflects te Tiriti o Waitangi and treats data as taonga.

What does data ethics in Aotearoa mean to you?

In forming the interim Centre, we’ve asked this question to over 100 people from the private and public sector, including academics, Māori data experts, non-government organisations, and representatives of different population groups. The answers we received ranged from “tricky” to “complex and multifaceted.” They spoke of the need for care and wisdom, and the need to understand and incorporate a breadth of viewpoints. One person described data ethics in the context of ocean navigation:

“Data ethics are how we hold our course – leaning on values and experience and applying them on changing seas.”

While everyone had a unique answer to this question, their responses tended to group around three themes – rights-based, values-led, and outcomes-focused.


Data should only be used with good intent and in a way that keeps people at the centre. Human rights ensure people and communities are treated with respect and fairness, that they have a say in what their data is used for and are protected from bias and discrimination. Following the principles and intentions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi will ensure that indigenous rights are recognised and upheld.


People recognised that ethics are subjective and decision-making often ends up in grey areas. Individuals and communities may have different boundaries on what is right and ethical (e.g., what data is sensitive) depending on their values and world views. How can these differences be worked through and who gets to decide what is ethical?


Data ethics was defined as maximising the benefits that can be gained from data while minimising harm – actual and perceived harm, foreseen or unintended. Decisions need to protect people (especially those seen as vulnerable), create equity and fairness, and encourage trust and participation. Ethical innovation was seen as innovation that would use data to improve wellbeing for this generation and generations to come.

Everyone agreed that data ethics matters.

There was also agreement that Aotearoa has unique cultural considerations regarding data ethics. This means that we can't pick up and use international guidelines exactly as they are. It is important that we respect and support te ao Māori concepts of data, where data is a collective taonga with its own whakapapa. We have an opportunity to embrace the depth and wisdom of indigenous knowledge by grounding our approach to data ethics within a te ao Māori context.

What does data ethics in Aotearoa mean to you?

We are at the beginning of an exciting journey, and we want you to be part of it.

What does doing the right thing with data look like? How can we be good and just kaitiaki?

How do you think about data ethics? What images or words come to mind?

If you want to let us know what you think about data ethics and innovation in Aotearoa, email or comment below.



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