Apple partners with Te Pūkenga to expand Racial Equity and Justice Initiative into Aotearoa

Apple's partnership with Te Pūkenga to expand Racial Equity and Justice Initiative into Aotearoa was honoured with a pōwhiri at Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae on June 14, 2023.
(L) Apple's partnership with Te Pūkenga was honoured with a pōwhiri at Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae; (R) Alisha Johnson, Apple's director of REJI. Photo credit: Newshub. / Getty Images / Apple

An effort by Apple to combat systemic racism the US tech giant is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on has been extended to New Zealand.

Apple has partnered with tertiary education provider Te Pūkenga to provide 10 schools with the skills and devices needed to teach Aotearoa's Digital Technologies curriculum to students who have "not been well served by the education system in the past".

It hopes to ultimately combat the gap in the tech sector for Māori, who are said to make up four percent of the sector's workforce despite representing 17 percent of the population. 

"This is all about changing people's lives," Te Pūkenga chief executive Peter Winder told Newshub.

"This new partnership where Apple is providing the technology and we are providing teaching expertise to work with 10 kura [schools] to change the way that they provide access to digital literacy and get people excited about the future.

"It's part of our serious commitment to equity, to engage and support learners that have not been well served by the education system in the past. This partnership provides a way to ensure that a whole new generation of learners will have access to technology and be able to see themselves as having a future in the digital economy."

Te Pūkenga hopes to expand the programme beyond the initial 10 schools involved, Winder said at the Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae in Auckland on Wednesday, where a pōwhiri was held to honour the partnership.

Apple said Te Pūkenga is just the first partner it is working with as part of bringing its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) to New Zealand.

Alisha Johnson, Apple's director of REJI, said the company chose Aotearoa as the initiative's next country to expand into due to its "wealth of deep culture, creative talent and innovation", which it wants to tap into to benefit Māori and Pasifika communities.

"What's been key for us is seeing the underrepresentation of Māori in the technology sector and knowing that there is such a strong through-line of innovation and creative talent. But that underrepresentation has led to some intergenerational consequences," Johnson told Newshub.

"So we see New Zealand as a region where we can demonstrate the positive benefits that come from increasing representation and bringing underrepresented communities into the solutions. We want our technology to be accessed by everyone, we make it for everyone, so it should be developed by everyone."

Johnson added that Apple has recognised New Zealand making "a really concerted effort to advance equity", which it wishes to support as a company.

Apple is the most valuable company on the planet with a current market capitalisation of US$2.89 trillion.

The training and development course Apple has partnered with Te Pūkenga on will teach participants iOS app development with Swift Playgrounds, including app prototyping and design, as well as digital media development, computer programming and user experience methodologies.

The programme will initially train 30 educators, each of whom will complete a micro-credential in Digital Technologies Training. 

Based on the number of students the participating educators currently teach, the training they receive has the potential to impact more than 2000 senior students in the first year alone, Apple said. 

Te Pūkenga said it will provide ongoing support and community engagement for educators involved in the program.

The expansion into Aotearoa comes as Apple announces its investment into REJI has risen above US$200 million. After launching in the US in June, 2020, the initiative has also expanded into Australia, the UK and Mexico.