What on earth is Community Informatics?

Community Informatics is an emerging field of investigation and practice concerned with using information and communications technology to enable and empower communities. However, until recently community informatics has been more about research at an academic level rather than in communities themselves. From a Māori perspective, Robyn Kamira (2003) observes that “technology still happens “at” Māori,” and she discusses the danger that information technology becomes a further instrument of colonisation when the knowledge is controlled by the dominant culture and when the technology makes the extraction and exploitation of knowledge more sophisticated and covert.

That thinking is behind the development of the Te Rongo Haeata Centre for Community Informatics Research, a joint venture between Clubhouse 274Kia Aroha College, and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.
The Te Rongo Haeata Centre sits within the Tokorau Institute for Indigenous Innovation based at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. The purpose of the Tokorau Institute is to unlock the potential of indigenous people, their knowledge and their resources, by connecting indigenous or traditional knowledge systems with new, advanced and emerging information and communication technologies. The Te Rongo Haeata Centre is ideally placed therefore to align Community Informatics with an indigenous research paradigm, and to explore the impact of Clubhouse 274 on our young people, their whānau, and the wider community.

Last month, Mike Usmar, (CEO of the NZ Computer Clubhouse Trust) and I attended the international CIRN (Community Informatics Research Network) Conference at the Monash Centre, in Prato, Italy, where the conference theme was “To measure or not to measure? That is the question.” We presented a paper that made the point, “To measure or not to measure? How is the question!”