Path2Digital for Indigenous Tech StartUps is here and now


The complexities of Indigenous disadvantage are too great for any single solution, what I know in my heart is that social enterprise and digital are the future and well worth trying to address closing the gap. Where there are no jobs, create them, where there are gaps, there are opportunities to design solutions, tech can be leveraged to give life to a myriad of solutions. I am so glad I don’t accept the status quo, I am consistently blown away by what is possible and the generosity of Tech to embrace anyone who wants to, to get on board. So when the opportunity arose to collude with muru-D to set up an Indigenous start up weekend – I naturally dived in. Any chance to create the space for people to access untapped resources and opportunities is frankly a privilege.

The status quo had kicked in…warning it couldn’t be done, it would be a process, it would take months, years, even generations to find the Indigenous digital entrepreneurs of Australia. Clearly and thankfully they were mistaken, Indigenous Tech entrepreneurship is here and this is just the beginning, they came from remote, regional and urban areas and they just needed a workshop to get them started and connected.

It all started with a desire from Annie Parker founder of start up accelerator muru-D – an innate calling borne of its name in Aboriginal language – muru – path to and D for digital. Annie tweeted the call out for Indigenous entrepreneurs. The rest was a series of actions to get the word out including Annie talking on Lola Forester’s Black Chat program, and partnership with the National Centre for Indigenous ExcellenceIndigenous Digital Excellence hub, and Pollenizer turned out 11 Indigenous entrepreneurs from Perth, Cairns, Bathurst, Sydney and NT who had an idea that was either somewhat developed or undeveloped. The ideas would be curated with the support of coaches, tools and mentors over Saturday and Sunday.

Pollenizer’s start up science workshop gave participants a number of tools like the lean canvas to form their ideas and solutions. A big focus is on validating the idea with potential customers and on being adaptable to meet market needs. Great tools on developing an elevator pitch and pitching to your audience.

Two days, eleven entrepreneurs resulting in 5 pitches – that’s a pretty incredible result. The five pitches were developed over the weekend as teams naturally formed around areas of interest – the arts and culture team , the legal platform team, the wearables security team, the Indigenous accreditation team and the Aboriginal health team.

The transformation from Day 1 to Day 2 was amazing to watch, people coming out of their shells, getting more confident, more deadly, getting clearer about their ideas, their customers and developing their ability to pitch and their capacity to monetize their enterprise.

After various hustles the teams gathered their post it notes, laptops and presentations and delivered the deadliest pitches on Sunday afternoon in Redfern.

  • Reece pitched Culturally appropriate health messages for pregnant Indigenous women.
  • Zoe, Brooke and Eddie pitched Wearable technology for security (sunglasses, handbags, wallets).
  • Nancia, Angie and Mikaela pitched BlackMarket linking art to artist’s culture and stories through augmented reality.
  • Brian and Michael pitched LawMart – legal market place to connect people with specialist lawyers.
  • Torres and Shelley pitched Rating Indigenous friendly corporations.

The pitches were excellent – clear and concise, delivered with quiet confidence. I was privileged to be a part of witnessing this workshop, the learning all round was simply amazing.

I learnt that there is a humility in understanding first people’s way and wisdom,

their connection to country, family and community. 

On the last day one of the participants said he really missed his family and the calm of the country, he found Sydney too hurried and busy, I had to agree and I learnt that there is a humility in understanding first people’s way and wisdom, their connection to country, family and community. I learned about Pollenizer’s start up science teachings and tools and their ability to adapt a workshop to meet participants’ needs. I learnt that there is a desire to support Indigenous digital entrepreneurs access the resources, tools and programs they need to get their start ups going. I already knew muru-D’s commitment and was chuffed they asked me to be a part of it. I did learn they are willing to do whatever it takes to get this right and have Indigenous people part of the development of this workshop.

The 11 entrepreneurs have tapped into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, they have the tools and networks to keep developing their ideas. They are now plugged in to the vast amount of startup and tech resources available through muru-D and Pollenizer’s extensive networks. They will guide the refinement of the workshop so that other Indigenous entrepreneurs may access the same in other locations and settings. At the end of the workshop, Annie Parker said “Keep working at your ideas, look what you achieved in 2 days, take the criticism as learning and I look forward to seeing you back here in 6 or 12 months time and see where you are at, hear your stories and see your achievements.”

I too can’t wait to see where these deadly entrepreneurs go forth and do good – they showed us a glimpse of what they are made of this one weekend in Redfern in July 2015, I know no matter what, they will continue to inspire and thrive. Follow these innovators on Twitter @murudau @theNCIE @IndigenousDX @pollenizer

Anne-Marie Elias is a consultant in innovation for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Design Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Follow my journey of disruptive social innovation on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter

Next Generation Open Data

This week the NSW Minister for Innovation, the hon. @VictorDominello announced the NSW Data Analytics Centre (the DAC) – a place where government, business and NGOs can go and leverage the volumes of data that we collect but rarely manage to make use of. The launch took place at UTS, in a spectacular space with demonstrations of Prof Hung Nguyen‘s robots and thought controlled wheel chair and Ben SimonsData Arena.

Minister Dominello has been working on this for some time and should be applauded for his courage and commitment to see better collection and use of government data to improve lives, community, business, planning and environment. A bold move which will have its challenges but will create the right conditions for innovation and better coordination and delivery of profound social change. The DAC presents a very interesting journey for government agencies, to understand the limitless possibilities of sharing data to solve very complex problems.

The Minister’s vision to establish a next generation whole-of-government data analytics centre, the first of its kind in Australia, is massive and rests on the success of jurisdictions like New Zealand, New York City and the State of Michigan which have used data analytics to improve the lives of citizens through better targeted and more coordinated government service delivery.

Data is one of the greatest assets held by government, but when it’s buried away in bureaucracy it is of little value. 

Minister for Innovation,  Victor Dominello

At the launch, Minister Dominello said ” Whether it’s tackling crime, combating obesity or addressing housing affordability, we cannot hope to develop solutions to the long-term challenges that our state faces without an effective whole-of-government data sharing platform.” I believe the Minister has created the perfect arena for this through the DAC.

The most spectacular display of Minister Dominelo’s vision has to be GovHack – this year over 2000 participants across Australia and New Zealand who produced 400 prototypes over 48 hours. I was privileged to be part of the Sydney organising team and humbled we had the support of the Minister for Innovation , Victor Dominello and Minister for Small Business, John Barilaro at the Sydney awards night 31 July at Fishburners. The Ministers stayed long past proceedings and enjoyed the company of a very diverse and talented crowd of tech’s and start ups. They could see the intricate understanding of the power of data to solve social problems and the enthusiasm of an eclectic group of coders, designers, social engineers and techs more than happy to show the world the infinite possibilities of data analytics.

You see, hackathons are the harmonic convergence of data, science, technology and social design, and the results are astounding, just check out the winners and runners up of Sydney GovHack:

ClearGov – an engagement platform that makes government and political information more accessible and transparent for citizens, journalists, policy makers and anyone who has an interest.  It won most innovative tech platform awarded by Fishburners’ CEO Murray Hurps.

CareFactors is a measurement tool that brings together environment, social, health, demographic data by LGA so you know how your suburb stacks up against things that mater to you. Care Factors won Best use of NSW data and Most Innovative Hack to engage community and environment. It even lets you see what services and charities are in your area so you can connect, volunteer or donate to local causes.

NizViz won the best use of  Sydney Water data for its mash up of water, air, environment and demographic data by LGA. Runner up Sydney Water Dashboard developed a consumption tracker by LGA. I congratulate Sydney Water for participating this year – we need to find more bureaucrats like you who want to give a try and realise the benefits far outweigh the concerns of hackathons and open data.

For those new to GovHack, Craig Thomler wrote a great review of GovHack projects in the Mandarin recently, with a useful glossary of GovHack terms like Mashup, data custodian, open data and hack. A recent article in The Australian about founder and goddess of GovHack Pia Waugh underscores the importance of GovHack in driving open data and open government for the betterment of all.

This year GovHack saw more commonwealth agencies, local councils and state agencies involved in sharing data, evidenced by the array of prizes and 7000 data sets from over 30 agencies including the ABC, ABS, Australian Charities and Not for Profits, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal Affairs, ATO, Veterans Affairs and the CSIRO. Hopefully, the increasing attention on GovHack will demonstrate the potential of leveraging social hackers to create effective solutions to local and global problems, will encourage more agencies to get on board next year.

I believe the planets are aligning on this, Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Digital Transformation Office and Minister Dominello’s Data Analytics Centre are significant steps in the digital disruption of government and its quite exciting to be working in this space at this time with some extraordinary people driving the change in government. My pledge and hope is to drive as many social hacks as possible, we will hack for DV, homelessness, regional and remote communities and anything else that seems insurmountable, because the collaborative data conditions are perfect right now.

And a really great idea would be if Ben Simons (main picture)  from the UTS Data Arena could invite agency heads to the Data Arena and shown the possibilities of how their data will come to life, save money and generate better outcomes for them and the community they serve through the DAC ? Maybe even demonstrate some of the GovHack winning entries to be announced at the GovHack red carpet awards on September 5 in Sydney.

Follow my journey on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter

Anne-Marie is a consultant in innovation for social change, Honorary Associate of the Design Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Local Government at UTS.