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Giving rangatahi a voice

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This article was published on 3 August 2020

Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 21 August, we are checking in with the four finalists (who happen to be Callaghan Innovation customers) – Kiwa Digital, Emergency Q, NZ Trade Group and Plink Software – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.

Kiwa Digital harnesses cutting-edge technology to help businesses transform their content strategies and adapt their content across multiple languages and cultures. 

Founded in 2003 by award-winning film and television producer, Rhonda Kite, the business started as a post-production software company. After launching its award-winning VoiceQ, a software platform that automates dialogue replacement for gaming, television and film production, Kiwa Digital expanded into developing proprietary technology to improve literacy, speech accuracy and content accessibility. 

Kiwa Digital chief executive, Steven Renata, is proud to be an NZ Hi-Tech finalist and to be recognised in a group of successful Māori tech companies making a difference internationally. 

COVID-19 sees flurry of new business

While many businesses faced downturn due to COVID-19, Kiwa Digital was in the enviable position of dealing with a sudden flurry of new business, and even moved to fully remote production of its ebook apps and development of new VoiceQ applications. “Working in the global media and software sector, we were well-positioned to cope with the pandemic, and were fortunate to experience a significant spike in enquiries and opportunities, enabling us to create new products and hire more staff,” Renata says. 

With media and publishing industries shifting to internationally collaborative processes, Kiwa Digital, with support from a Callaghan Innovation Project Grant, is now conducting R&D, focusing on integrating software localisation using cloud-based software demanded by over the top (OTT) players like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Disney.

The opportunity to ‘humanise’ business practices 

Renata believes NZ has an opportunity to take the principles of our unique Kiwi culture and apply it to the software industry, an industry that Renata says has historically moved too fast to focus on the more ‘human aspects’ of business.  

“It's NZ’s authenticity and our ‘humanness’ that gives us an edge on the world stage, and COVID-19 was a good reminder of the value of nurturing relationships, including in business, in extreme conditions,’’ Renata says. “The key is to take a ‘relational approach’ to building business success and focus on authenticity and integrity, rather than just moving commercially fast. For sustainable business you can only truly move at the pace of trust.”

Using code and digital storytelling to engage young Kiwis, indigenous communities 

Renata is passionate about unlocking the potential of NZ’s Rangatahi (youth) within the global tech industry and says showing the links between culture and coding will help. “I can see this amazing link between software, coding and algorithms, and language and culture. Language and, for me, Te Reo, is code. If we can show this to our Rangatahi they will be able to relate more to the tech industry,” says Renata. 

Businesses and government agencies can also tap into Kiwa Digital’s expertise, supporting them to develop customised apps for building awareness, skill and confidence when using other languages, through their Cultural Intelligence toolkit. 

 

Find out more about Kiwa Digital on its website.