Veracity Mission update

24 March 2021 | Read time: 8 minutes

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Aotearoa New Zealand’s opportunity to trade in trust


Ethical purchasing is on the up and this has been accelerated by the global pandemic. A 2020 global survey by Accenture says that 60% of consumers report making more sustainable choices since the pandemic. More people want to make better consumer decisions, but to do this we need access to complex information that we can trust.

In the Veracity Mission workshop last year, a question was put to the participants: How can data science and digital technologies enable us to prove the truthfulness, integrity and authenticity of our data, people and place? More specifically, how can technology be applied to help prove veracity in Aotearoa’s products and services?

As consumers we trust products we believe offer us truth and authenticity, but accessing and verifying the information we get about a product or service is tough when complex value chains are the norm. Just a single Aotearoa meat product would have countless value chain interactions from paddock to plate which without transparency can create uncertainty, or veracity blindspots.

Aotearoa is currently experiencing a positive global reputation buffered by the Prime Minister’s successful response to the pandemic. This combined with the perception of a ‘clean green’ image provides an advantage, which if capitalised on, could have a long term impact on prosperity by growing trust in our global exports and ultimately, supporting our economy.

A novel approach to mission led and disruptive science 

To tackle the questions about how tech can support veracity in our products, SfTI brought together a group of Aotearoa-NZ’s leading digital and data scientists, along with Māori businesses and industry representatives. These experts were then put through nine intensive online workshops using the design thinking Concept-Knowledge (CK) method. This was the first time the CK approach to driving innovation has been used in Aotearoa. More about the CK approach.

These experts were selected from the response to SfTI’s call for Expressions of Capability.

SfTI Director, Professor Sally Davenport says we are always looking to create the spaces where breakthrough science can be developed:

“SfTI is looking to build the behaviour and capacity of our researchers to innovate and collaborate in new ways. The CK approach has been used extensively internationally, so we felt it could add something new to New Zealand’s innovation collaboration tool kit.” 

Based on the results from the workshops, a smaller group is now developing a research proposal for consideration by the SfTI board.

The research vision: To close veracity blindspots

The current research vision has been designed by a team led by Dr. Markus Luczak-Roesch from Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Luczak-Roesch and the team have set themselves the task of developing technologies which not only close the veracity blindspots in value chains but that do it in a way that empowers all market players.

For example, take a meat product: Livestock farmers, meat processors, logistics, retailers, restaurants, consumers, industry regulators are all involved in the value chain. Imagine if all those players could contribute to and benefit from a transparent and trusted information source. This could support compliance and sustainability, as well as the veracity of that product in the global market.

For consumers that means knowing what you buy is authentic and for Aotearoa’s producers that means having a way to demonstrate veracity and quality, giving them an edge over competitors.

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Courtesy of NZ Story. Photo credit: Paul Sutherland Photography

How to ensure the technology is empowering for all

Current approaches seeking to verify and manage information on value chains have done this in a centralised way. This means that large corporate or government platforms have control and oversight over the data from each stage of a value chain. This approach can disadvantage smaller players. For example, both Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and indigenous communities can lose control over their data.

SfTI’s Vision Mātauranga Theme Leader, Katharina Ruckstuhl, explains that the contribution of Māori knowledge and resources to a product can be lost in the value chain:

“Often mātauranga Māori knowledge or resources fail to be recognised and then are appropriated by others for their own benefit. Working out how to technically prevent this will be a great advance for Māori collectives”.

Tracking Indigenous intellectual and cultural property through value chains

One member of the Veracity research proposal writing team is dedicated to applying mātauranga Māori to decision-making in technology - Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute at Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, The University of Waikato, Maui Hudson. Associate Professor Hudson currently works in the area of using ‘digital tags’ or Traditional Knowledge labels (TK) as a method to address indigenous intellectual and cultural property and knowledge-sharing issues.

Associate Professor Hudson says, “Every Māori community has cultural and biological collections within national archives, libraries, and museums that they do not own, do not control, and cannot govern.”

“A new system of “digital tags” known as Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Biocultural (BC) Labels are being adopted by communities. The Labels support Indigenous governance and serve to promote and enhance equity in digital infrastructures", he says.

A potential outcome of the Veracity Mission could be technology that tracks, traces and verifies TK labels. This would mean the veracity of claims made about the role of traditional knowledge in a product could be proven.

Impacts at home and globally

The Veracity Mission research team are looking for ways to employ technologies that can support a de-centralised approach to veracity challenges to level the playing field for all involved. Meaning all players will be able to contribute and contest information in a crowdsourced approach that builds a networked system of trusted information that benefits everyone.

The impacts of this research will create opportunities not only for our SMEs, farmers, Māori businesses and producers, but could potentially have applications for indigenous communities around the world. 

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Courtesy of NZ Story. Photo credit: Kieren Scott

What next?

The research team are currently finalising their Spearhead project proposal which will be reviewed by the SfTI Leadership Team and Board in the coming weeks. The proposal suggests that alongside the research itself a virtual ‘Veracity Laboratory’ will be set up to bring together researchers, businesses, indigenous communities, system and software developers, and the general public in an informal collaborative way to further a shared approach to veracity technology.

More about CK theory

CK theory is a design thinking model that makes it possible to understand and explain the way in which new concepts are created. It breaks down the process of innovation into tools and methodologies. One application of CK theory are CK workshops - this involves a large multidisciplinary group working through a series of workshops in three stages. Find out more