Partnership for Papa Reo

23 October, 2019

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Te Hiku Media, supported by Dragonfly, have received an investment of $13 million through MBIE’s Strategic Science Investment Fund to develop a multilingual language platform, Papa Reo. Papa Reo will develop natural language processing tools, starting with te reo Māori.

Formed in 1991, Te Hiku Media is an organisation committed to the revitalisation of tikanga and te reo Māori. In 2013, kaumātua from Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kahu encouraged Te Hiku Media to pursue technological innovation and secure a digital future for te reo Māori.

Dragonfly are supporting this vision: “We are delighted to be able to work with Te Hiku Media to make tools like speech recognition available in te reo Māori, with the ambition of inspiring indigenous languages worldwide,” says Edward.

“The funding will also support students and young researchers who are interested in applying machine learning to languages, helping New Zealand build up capability in this rapidly developing area.”

Alongside New Zealand-based academics and experts in linguistics, te reo Māori and machine learning, the investment will allow for the collaboration to extend beyond Aotearoa, bringing in critical global expertise including Cambridge University’s Speech Group and Oxford University academics. A unique collaboration for the project is with the machine learning group at Mozilla, a non-profit tech company known for the Firefox web browser.

Peter Lucas Jones of Te Hiku Media says that Wellington-based Dragonfly Data Science was engaged during the Kōrero Māori project to support Te Hiku Media with the development of speech tools for te reo Māori. “Dragonfly specialises in the application of machine learning and statistical analysis, and their expertise in data science makes them a key partner for Papa Reo.”

The tools will enable applications to be built to ensure all New Zealanders can use te reo Māori when engaging with their digital devices. New Zealand English and Pacific languages will also be included to further support the growth of a multilingual Aotearoa.

In a media release, Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Research, Science and Innovation said that the four projects were chosen on excellence, and would help New Zealand to address some of our greatest challenges like bringing Te Reo into everyday digital interactions, and building a picture of climatic and ecological trends.

Papa Reo will build Aotearoa’s data science capability in machine learning and data stewardship through kaitiakitanga. The project team includes relationships with academic institutions who will provide supervision for PhD students and post-doctoral fellowships. We look forward to hearing from people interested in machine learning, artificial intelligence and te reo Māori.

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For all media queries contact Suzanne Duncan (, 027 368 9241)