We believe that there is still so much more room for improvement for the technology sector to enhance its understanding and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as consumers, influencers and allies of their respective products and services.
Interestingly, many people may read the opening point above who are critical or “sitting on the fence” in this space will say “Why do I need to enhance my understanding of Indigenous people?” The answer is actually quite simple: because most of you work in organisations and entities that have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and/or are influenced by the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP). And the result is that this benefits your business and all of the people within it, whether it is through revenue and profits or impact marketing. The history of the original people of this country is actually 60,000+ years old, so while we think it is important to teach ourselves and our kids the history of this country, it needs to be done properly. This means the actual history and not selective pieces of it.
With the ever-growing emergence of various types of technology that are increasingly impacting our lives, we are seeing a shift in the jobs of the future to be more centred around growing and servicing the evolution of technology. Combine this with:
There is a perception that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have little experience in the tech space and subsequently this is translated into the way that people are employed in this space. A perfect example is of a story of a young Sydney-based Aboriginal man. This young man is a software developer and has experience working on the tools for several years, as well as being a leader in his team at the large company that he works for. Another global tech company (a household name) approached this young Aboriginal man a few years ago to see if he might be interested in a career opportunity. This young man was elated and jumped at the opportunity. As the conversations between the man and the company proceeded it very quickly became evident that they were wanting to engage him in a sales-based role and not in a more technical capacity. Growing his career in the technical side of things is where he wanted to go. As you can predict, this opportunity did not come to fruition as it was more of an opportunity for the tech corporate giant, than for the young Aboriginal man. This is just one of many stories which exemplifies what is taking place in the tech industry (among other industries) and their engagement with Indigenous people and the Indigenous business sector.
Now, to be clear, there are individuals/champions across the tech sector and working within large corporations and the government that do care about making an impact in the Indigenous space, however, they are repeatedly brought back into the corporate machine that governs their systems, processes and presence in the market. I absolutely get it, I am the cofounder of Ngakkan Nyaagu (NGNY), a tech business, and I am driven by improving the systems and processes that my team uses in order to make their lives easier so that they don’t have to carry as much “weight”. These tools and ways of working make their working days easier and more efficient. But more needs to be done to support these individuals in exploring, experimenting and nurturing opportunities to engage, work with and hire Indigenous people.
Another example is the engagement of my business (NGNY) to bid for tech software and web development project opportunities. We always welcome these opportunities and certainly are not pushing these away. However, we will be invited to bid for a project, then spend time responding to the bid and answering the requirements and then be told that we don’t have enough experience. So, why were we invited to bid in the first place? Oh, that’s right. A lot of the organisations that approach us are in some way governed and influenced by the IPP and are rewarded for demonstrating that they have engaged an Indigenous business in their tender or project response process. To then “rub salt into the wound”, we often see the outputs and results of these projects at their conclusion and are able to define that what was delivered is exactly within our capabilities. Let me be clear here, 99% of the time we lose projects to non-Indigenous entities with the same or similar capabilities and often they are incumbent partners. Again, I get it, there is security and efficiency in going with an organisation that you are already comfortable with, but this is a complete waste of our time and also counterproductive to the existence of the IPP and RAPs.
To further extend on this, we employ a set of processes and systems in NGNY which receive comments from organisations (big and small) engaged with us along the lines of how “amazing” and “easy” our processes and systems are to work with, and that they have “never worked with an organisation like ours that is as organised and transparent in the way we get work done”. My point is that, once given the opportunity, that we have been able to deliver in line and above the expectations of most of our clients and most other Indigenous organisations are the same.
Ultimately, there is a reservation and a deficit mindset when it comes to engaging Indigenous people and businesses for new opportunities and this perception of deficit needs addressing. These are a few ways to address the deficit mindset:
Making a shift in deficit thinking when it comes to Indigenous people in the tech sector is improving, as is evidenced by the growing number of Indigenous people in the sector. However, obvious deficit thinking and related behaviours still exist across the tech sector in Australia and these are still inhibiting the growth of Indigenous people in this space and the first way that we will start to overcome this is by calling it out and taking the appropriate action (yes, “action”, not just words), to reduce deficit thinking and deficit ways of doing.
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