Free te reo language software developer upset about multinational’s forays

An iwi radio station that's developing free software to help revitalise te reo is concerned about a multinational player.

It says Māori should be leading the way in creating apps for their language.

Iwi radio broadcaster Te Hiku Media is at the forefront of digital language innovation.

"We're creating language tools so other Māori can go and create the amazing apps they want to do," said Keoni Mahelona, chief technology officer for Te Hiku Media.

That access for Māori developers is free, but Te Hiku has concerns about a multinational company it says is doing similar work. 

Lionbridge specialises in translation services and wants to pay te reo speakers for a project that'll aid in the development of speech recognition technology for Māori.

Peter Lucas Jones, Te Hiku general manager said Lionbridge are "American corporates who are looking at ways to translate apps of any description into the native languages of indigenous people, and sell that back". 

Selling it back is the problem, as indigenous peoples such as Hawaiians protest the commercialisation of their language.

Many have taken to the streets in the US, upset at the trademarking of the phrase 'aloha pokē'. It's the loss of what some are calling data sovereignty.

"It's just the icing on the cake of colonisation," Mr Mahelona said.

In an email, Lionbridge told 1 NEWS that technology often ignored minority languages and that its work was important to ensure the future development of Te Reo Māori. 

Lionbridge also sought to assure critics that it was 100 per cent against cultural appropriation.

They're assurances Te Hiku isn't buying.

"I don't think that Lionbridge is au fai with tikanga Māori principles. And I don't believe that they really mean anything to them anyway," Mr Lucas Jones said.

An iwi radio station is behind the software aimed to revitalise the language. Source: 1 NEWS