Coding for culture

Place Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
Text Summit Staff
Art ʻŌiwi TV

Members of Hawaiʻi’s technology and entrepreneurship community take note: Purple Maiʻa Foundation, a startup technology-education nonprofit, is running a competition this summer that asks technologists to work together with Hawaiian cultural practitioners, community leaders and activists to build software and/or hardware that solves a problem that relates to the theme of aloha ʻāina. The Purple Prize Aloha ʻĀina Challenge is, according to the website for the competition, “designed to push the limits in the way technology facilitates and amplifies the values of Aloha ʻĀina.”

Purple Maiʻa director Kamuela Enos explains, “Aloha ʻĀina is a central idea of Hawaiian thought and culture emphasizing connections not only to the land, but also connections to each other, our past and the future. Aloha ʻĀina was and is the foundational moral prerogative that has guided the work of the ancestral technologists of these pae ʻāina.”

The Purple Prize contest will kick off at 8 a.m. on May 28 with a Launch Day at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. Participants will listen to guest speakers, share ideas, and form teams that will then have the rest of the summer to design and build their products before they are judged to determine a winner in the fall.

“I’m excited about the Purple Prize initiative because, in recent years, there has been an unnatural wedge between the local tech community and the greater community. This is a false dichotomy,” says Dan Leuck, CEO of Ikayzo and one of three jurors who will eventually determine the winner.

Purple Maiʻa hopes that running this competition will further the conversation and the action around responsible innovation and technology in Hawaiʻi.

Co-founder Kelsey Amos explains, “As an educational nonprofit, we’re empowering middle school students to possibly go on to pursue higher education and tech careers, but we’re also trying to stimulate the local tech industry so that when our students reach the point of employment, they can find jobs that allow them to live their values and innovate in the service of community organizations and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

Started by two Hawaiian men who’ve been successful in the tech industry and feel they have a kuleana to create access to empowering technology education for underserved youth in Hawaiʻi, Purple Maiʻa is on a mission to build channels of technological knowledge for Hawaiʻi’s youth in order to help communities thrive. The metaphor the organization uses is the idea of a tech ʻauwai—a channel of tech knowledge—that kids can flow along through school, interacting with and enriching their communities along the way.


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