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Got an idea that will take the M?ori economy beyond forestry and fishing? Here’s a challenge for you

Challenges are all the rage.

There are Startup Weekends, where teams of developers, marketers, designers etc compete over 54 hours to build a business. There are university student entrepreneur competitions (with names like Spark 100k, or the Audacious Challenge). One of my personal favourites is Mathematics in Industry, where 100 mathematicians sit around for five days trying to solve six tough real-life industry problems.

Overseas the stakes can get really big. Later this year, judges will decide the winner of the $US10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize – a challenge to create a real working version of Star Trek’s iconic diagnostic device, the “tricorder”. The seven finalist teams have spent five years designing a hand-held device which can diagnose 15 medical conditions (diabetes, TB, stroke, heart disease) better than a doctor.

The latest challenge on the Aotearoa scene is DigMyIdea, a M?ori innovation challenge launched this week by ATEED (Auckland’s economic growth agency), Ng? P? Waea (the National M?ori Broadband Working Group), Callaghan Innovation and Poutama Trust.

Entrants don’t have to be M?ori, but their digital business idea has to have a focus on economic outcomes for M?ori.

The ideas have to be in by October 18, with the top five individuals or teams in each category (15-18 years, and 19 or over) attending DIGIw?nanga, a weekend of workshops in Auckland in November, before the winners are chosen at the end of the month.

Prizes are still under wraps.

Antony Royal, chair of Ng? P? Waea, says this is the first example of a M?ori-focussed challenge, and part of a wider strategy to get Maori investment away from a focus on primary industries and tourism, and into technology.

“The objective to to think about things in the digital space that are good for Maori and good for New Zealand as a whole.

“If you look at M?ori economic development strategies there is very little mention of innovation and the use of technology, but we think relying on primary exports may not be good over the long term.”

For that reason, Royal says they want to make it easy for people to enter, asking for ideas, rather than polished business plans. “We want people to get excited and have fun and come up with ideas in the digital space that will have positive outcomes for M?ori.”

He says he expects there will be M?ori and non-M?ori entrants.

“We want to try get to people who ordinarily wouldn’t have thought to enter a challenge.”

Chief editor at Idealog, Nikki's a veteran in the journalism industry. A former lecturer at AUT University, she was the chief reporter at NZ weekly business publication The Independent and was deputy editor of Canadian publication Unlimited magazine.

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