Te Mana Raraunga
Māori Data Sovereignty Network
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Frequently Asked Questions


Data is a taonga but it depends on the context of its use
— Wayne Ngata, Te Aitanga a Hauiti

What is Māori Data?

Māori data are data that are produced by Māori, and data that are about Māori and the environments we have relationships with. Data are a living tāonga and are of strategic value to Māori. Māori data include but are not limited to:

  • Data from government agencies, organisations and/or businesses
  • Data about Māori that are used to describe or compare Māori collectives
  • Data about Te Ao Māori that emerges from research

What is the Social License to Operate?

The Social License to Operate discussion led by New Zealand Data Futures Partnership is concerned with how data integration and sharing affects the social contract between government and society including Māori citizens.  The social contract relates to the expectation that the government will act in the interest of its citizens.

What is the Cultural License to Operate?

The Cultural License to Operate focuses on the impact of data integration and data sharing on the social contract that exists between Crown and Iwi through their Treaty relationship.

What changes are occurring with Māori Data?

Public sector: The Crown has developed the capability to link individual-level data from multiple government sources. It is intended that linked data will be used to inform $50 billion dollars of annual ‘social investment’.  The Integrated Data Infrastructure or IDI is the main linked data repository. The current provisions of the Privacy and the Statistics Acts require that data linked across agencies are anonymised. This means that individuals in the IDI cannot be identified. However, data linkage within agencies are not subject to such controls and can be used for operational purposes. There are strict controls on who can access the IDI and users are required to have a high level of technical skill.  It is likely that the IDI will replace the Census sometime after 2023.

Private sector: Data innovations are occurring at a rapid pace in the private sector. There are a range of international and local initiatives to link, centralise, store, visualise and commercialise data.

Key legislation being reviewed: There is pressure within government to change the underlying principles that govern official data and its use. To this end both the Statistics Act and the Privacy Act are being reviewed.  This work is happening in tandem with the Data Futures Partnership has been charged with exploring the ‘social licence’ for the use of data, by which data collection, storage and use will be determined by social values.


Why is this important for Māori?

These data innovations are occurring in the absence of a robust Māori data governance partnership that is representative, enabling, and provides clear lines of accountability back to Māori/Iwi. It is important to note that:

  1. Data from us, and about us and our resources, are valuable assets. Once control of it is lost, it is difficult to regain;
  2. Data can be powerful mechanisms for informing and driving Māori/Iwi development at national and local levels but only if we are able to exercise authority over our data;
  3. In order to reap the full benefits of data innovations, there will need to be  a sustained investment in building infrastructure and capability; 
  4. Planned legislative reform could have a major effect on the processes for controlling data and its use; without strong Māori leadership and input, these processes might not include Māori values and interests;
  5. The Statistics Act includes important provisions about the determination of the Māori electoral process, including the independence of the Government Statistician in determining the Māori electorates.

Why this is important now?

  1. The rapid development of data resources by the Crown is creating an infrastructure that will be very difficult to change once it is established;  
  2. The reviews of the Privacy and Statistics Acts are happening now, with the intention of having draft legislation by the end of the year.