University of Waikato computer scientist Professor Steve Reeves says Blockchain could be used to preserve the oral storytelling that is central to Māori culture.
Reeves said Māori have a long tradition of oral storytelling and if they want to retain their whakapapa and old stories, they need a secure place to store them, "where no one can tamper with them and where there is no single owner of the material.”
“Blockchain is the distributed ledger or decentralised database that keeps all records of digital transactions, such as Bitcoin,” Reeves said.
"It is easily located, but secure and nobody has control. And I got to thinking that it’s not only banks that are interested in the technology; I can foresee it being useful in libraries for cataloguing and interloans, and for Māori as a site for taonga.
“Blockchains are in essence an excellent idea. They reduce the need for a third party, and they can enable better information sharing and better more efficient business processes."
Reeves plans to develop a prototype that would accommodate taonga and other information. "The issue I have is that the technology is changing rapidly - go away for three weeks and when you come back, chances are what you have will no longer work, so I have to immerse myself in the technology and produce a public interface for the underlying Blockchain,” he said.
Reeves has been awarded almost $200,000 in seed funding from the Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) National Science Challenge to investigate possible applications for blockchain. This will allow him to take on a postdoctoral researcher. "Ideally I think I need a social scientist with brilliant computing skills, and they’re not so easy to come by,” he said.
The SfTI challenge is a 10-year multi-million dollar investment launched in 201 to grow New Zealand’s future high-tech economy.
Reeves’ funding comes under Vision Mātauranga, which is integrated into all SfTI challenge activity. Its mission is to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people for the benefit of all New Zealanders.