Indigenous app developers, digital designers, entrepreneurs, online educators and virtual reality artists are just some of finalists for the inaugural Indigenous Digital Excellence Awards taking place in Sydney on 29 September. The IDX Awards are the centrepiece of the IDX initiative, a $5 million partnership between the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and Telstra Foundation, which focuses on building digital skills, entrepreneurship and opportunities for Indigenous peoples and communities.
Yalanji man Luke Briscoe is a finalist for the Pathways and Employment category. The Founder of Indigi Lab is a leader in the Indigenous STEM and sustainable science space - creating projects for social and environmental change through digital culture and Indigenous sciences.
Briscoe started Indigi Lab about two years ago with the intention on just really writing articles and creating media content - but it has evolved into so much more.
Indigi Lab is launching a global Indigenous lead sustainable action network called The STREAMS Network - aiming for Indigenous communities, environmental groups, the business sector and governments to work together to "create sustainable business projects, unite globally and share our successes".
Briscoe says it's not about "embracing" technology.
"We as Indigenous people need to be at the forefront of creating our own technologies - just as we did thousands of years ago. I think Indigenous people naturally embrace technology but because technology is driven by big business Indigenous people can't afford the latest devices."
Indigi Lab is a rewarding project for Briscoe.
"I get to innovate and think creatively, I get to pass on my culture and knowledge to the next generation, I'm creating employment opportunities that have never existed before and my company is built from a long Indigenous legacy of innovation," Briscoe explains.
IDX initiative also aims to create opportunities for improving the employment, wellbeing, health, education, cultural and environmental outcomes for all Indigenous people and their communities through the use of digital technology.
Described as an act of social justice, IDX is providing Indigenous people the chance to benefit from technology and giving them the technical skills to build digital enterprises so they (and their communities) can achieve economic and social independence and preserve their culture.
To propel IDX, NCIE and Telstra developed A Roadmap for Building Indigenous Digital Excellence: Looking to 2030. The Roadmap is the first strategy developed for driving Indigenous Digital Excellence and is the result of three years of consultation, experimentation and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander digital makers, organisations and communities.
IDX is continuing an 80,000 year tradition of innovation that has been practiced by Indigenous people and communities across Australia. What Indigenous innovators are doing today is combining the sophistication of traditional knowledge with 21st century digital technologies to strengthen Indigenous cultural identity and improve the wellbeing of Indigenous people and their communities.
IDX can take many forms, from robotics and 3D printing to using drones to capture imagery of country to coding and app development to preserve language and culture for future generations. Ultimately, IDX is about using technology to strengthen Indigenous participation and entrepreneurship in the digital economy to achieve economic and social independence, and preserve Indigenous culture.
Technological and digital innovations have transformed the global economy and the way people live their lives, and new digital skills are now needed by both individuals and communities for them to thrive and succeed. However, education and access to capital investment are critical to success, and these are two areas where Australia's Indigenous communities have been left behind.
The IDX Initiative aims to address this by creating a sustainable platform for supporting Indigenous people to use and embrace digital technologies.
Increasing Indigenous participation in the digital economy has the potential to be a circuit breaker for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The benefits of supporting, investing in and promoting IDX are immense.
Creating pathways into digital economy jobs and closing the employment gap, sustaining good health and closing the gap on social and health outcomes, continuing and revitalising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and country, driving the creation and growth of Indigenous-led business, and increasing confidence in the digital economy and closing the education gap are all tangible benefits from the program.
Some of the activities include workshops that provide opportunities for Indigenous young people to explore digital technology – using tools like MIT Scratch, robotics, and 3D printing – creating learning experiences that deepen pride in, and connection to, culture.