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Fibre Fale launches to achieve equal population representation in tech by 2042

04 November 2022   /   News & reports

Pacific people make up only 2.8% of the Aotearoa New Zealand tech sector, despite being the country’s largest-growing and second-largest-growing export sector. A digital village is being built – and its creators are two young Pacific leaders who have galvanised some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading organisations to support their vision.

Fibre Fale was co-founded by CEO Julia Arnott-Neenee and Director Eteroa Lafaele as a purpose-led organisation to create pathways for more Pacific people to embark into technology through education, advocacy, and facilitation.

It was specifically established as a social enterprise rather than a charitable trust or foundation to be both a sustainable and philanthropic enterprise and realise its ambition to achieve equal population representation of Pacific peoples in the digital technology industry of Aotearoa New Zealand by 2042.

The founders have brought on board major philanthropy leaders as partners invested in catalysing innovative enterprises: Perpetual Guardian stewarding grant partnerships on behalf of two private philanthropic legacies, Spark Foundation, and Foundation North, together with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation and Aera Foundation initiated by Derek Handley and his wife Maya.

According to NZTech, by 2040 the growing Aotearoa New Zealand tech sector is set to create 137,000 new additional jobs for women, 93,000 new additional jobs for Māori and 48,000 new additional jobs for Pacific people – with the average salary in the sector now exceeding $100,000.

Amid this growth, and with Fibre Fale at the helm, Pacific people now stand to have digital equity and increased confidence in pursuing pathways in digital technologies. They quite rightfully see themselves as future creators. The organisation has an advisory group comprising of eight respected Pacific and Māori leaders with backgrounds in tech and edtech, cybersecurity, web 3.0, local government, Māori, Pacific, youth, and community engagement, law, and more. 

As Director Ms Lafaele’s roles include Head of Education and Head of Delivery; she will split her time between Fibre Fale and her work as a software engineer. She says, “Fibre Fale is a hub for Pacific people to come together, to share knowledge and be connected as a community in the digital space. As leaders we are committed to growth and tautua (service) for our communities, and Fibre Fale’s mission is to create resources for Pacific people to journey from consumers to creators and controllers in the tech space. By Pacific, for Pacific and with Pacific.”

As full-time CEO Ms Arnott-Neenee is driven by social justice, people, and futures. Before co-founding Fibre Fale she worked in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where she was Global Social Strategy Lead at HP in San Diego. She volunteered in Ghana, teaching technology communications at Entrepreneurs-In-Training School.

Ms Arnott-Neenee says, “We are incredibly humbled and grateful for the support from our funders, who are breaking the norms of how they operate in the philanthropy space and in the space of community-led organisations and purpose. This is a collective guided journey that is based on intergenerational advancement of Pacific people. Fibre Fale focuses on 11 to 40-year-olds and their families, because people are at different stages of understanding tech and trusting the sector, and we want to bring the whole family on the journey to make real change.

“Fibre Fale is the culmination of the extraordinary work many people in our community have already done to advance Pacific people in tech and overcome barriers. They have set the building blocks for us to grow.

“We want to see the moral arc of the universe bend towards justice in the digital space. Technology can affect vast numbers of people for the better if we dedicate ourselves to advocating for progress that reaches the whole of society and intentionally design a future that is fair and just for all.”

Perpetual Guardian is Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest non-Government philanthropic entity by volume. Kirsten Kilian-Taylor, Perpetual Guardian Philanthropy Manager, says “The founding of Fibre Fale and the partnerships behind it are a prime example of collaborative philanthropy in action. We are a group of enterprises coming together to help a cause promoting equality of access and participation in one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important sectors.”

“Perpetual Guardian has been able to steward $210,000 contribution to Fibre Fale, staggered from 2022 to 2024, in our capacity as manager and sole trustee of the legacies of private philanthropists Alexander Harold Watson and Clyde Graham, who had the foresight to leave grant making discretion with their professional trustee in order to address New Zealand’s impactful philanthropic needs now and in the future as may be needed.”

Spark Foundation’s mission is to accelerate towards digital equity, with a focus on the three pillars of access, pathways, and wellbeing. It is contributing $500,000 in three tranches until 2024. Kate Thomas, Spark Foundation Lead, says, “We believe Fibre Fale will play a pivotal role in creating a thriving and diverse digitech sector in Aotearoa New Zealand. Spark Foundation’s vision is that no New Zealander is left behind in a digital world, and this kaupapa is the ultimate expression of that goal – to empower the next generation of digital thinkers and creators to own their digital future. We’re proud to back Fibre Fale, as well as young social entrepreneurs Julia and Eteroa.”

Foundation North has also made a large contribution to Fibre Fale. Funding Manager Audry McLaren says, "Fibre Fale blends modern story-telling techniques and mātauranga to show a new wave of digitech leaders the pathway to success, and knows what young people can achieve when accessing STEM opportunities and resources. The Foundation is delighted to support Fibre Fale with a grant of $186,581 and to partner with other funders in this amazing mahi."

Spark Foundation is also contributing $70,000 on behalf of entrepreneur and innovator Derek Handley’s Aera Foundation, a charitable trust backing creative responses to social and environmental challenges.

The Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation, which supports organisations that help those who are underserved and underrepresented in health, education and the environment, is investing $150,000 towards Fibre Fale this year.

Neerali Parbhu, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation Lead, says, “Improving the diversity of people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) study and careers is important to us. Education is also a strong determinant of health. We were drawn to Julia and Eteroa’s drive to create opportunities for Pacific people in tech industries, and their ‘by Pacific, for Pacific and with Pacific’ kaupapa aligns deeply with our own values. We are excited to be part of the Fibre Fale journey that could have exponential impact for generations to come.”