In this moment of COVID-19, how as technologists and entrepreneurs do we innovate in this space? We can see some things immediately.
- Increasing demand for online learning and access to Honolulu-based programs can become more equitable for rural communities. We must also address unequal access to computers, smartphones and broadband.
- Will we see a greater demand for technology that connects students with aina virtually, via technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, in a post-COVID-19 world where we are more attuned to limited mobility?
- COVID-19 has pushed many employers to embrace employees working from home. Will this trend continue, granting Hawaii’s workforce access to national or even global employment opportunities remotely, earning enough to continue to live in the islands?
COVID-19 has taught us that the future is unpredictable. We need to keep fostering pilina, because those connected to community are best positioned to respond quickly to community needs in a crisis.
We also need what we call “communities of practice” to innovate toward the future we want. Communities of practice are often thought of as groups of people in a similar profession — web developers who exchange ideas, for instance, shaping trends and progress in their field.
We feel that while differing widely in individual skills and talents, a community of practice can also share a grounding in kuleana to a place, and to care for aina and people. We can lift each other up, creating an amplification effect.
One example of how technologists and entrepreneurs might contribute to aina-based communities of practice is ahupuaa restoration across the pae aina. The work in Heeia brings together education, conservation, resource management, research, biocultural restoration, regenerative farming and economic development.
Technologists and innovators could support what kiai are doing, leveraging tech to amplify culture rather than leveraging culture for tech.
Innovate Business Models For Community Wealth
While solving problems locally, it’s imperative to think globally, embracing opportunities to provide unique, homegrown, collaborative solutions to external markets, thereby realizing economic value that can be repatriated back to those communities who had a direct hand in birthing those ideas/solutions.
Many are already advocating for growing our technology and innovation industries, urging Hawaii to become a model for sustainability and positive innovation.
Having our tech industry bring in investment and high-paying jobs is a worthy goal, but we must not forget that if we, as Hawaiians and people of Hawaii, cannot shape how innovative solutions are created, marketed, distributed and owned, we run the risk of settling for less — less value circulating in the economy with only low-wage or “service” technology jobs available, and tech that runs counter to our values.
In response, we must build up our peoples’ skills as we think about how Hawaii benefits, who’s leading and whether we are just shifting around inequalities or achieving a state of waiwai where less is actually more.