IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

University of Hawaii to Establish Indigenous Data Hub

The university plans to launch a program to support up to 10 community-based innovation pilot projects which will draw from traditional indigenous knowledge and practices to preserve local ecosystems.

The entrance of the University of Hawaii Manoa in Honolulu.
The University of Hawaii is planning to build an indigenous data science hub with a “living laboratory” to advance ecological preservation efforts by community members, a recent university announcement said.

According to UH Office of Indigenous Innovation Director Kamuela Enos, the new hub will be located on a UH campus that has yet to be decided, at a research center and living scientific laboratory on Hawaii Island that brings together academic experts, community leaders, indigenous practitioners, students and government officials to develop sustainability solutions rooted in ancestral knowledge and indigenous practices. He said it will try to supplement preservation efforts with data visualization and technology-driven research, focusing on energy security, food security and place-based learning.

“Native Hawaiians especially were able to be self-sufficient on the most remote set of islands on the face of the Earth, and the systems that were created and our practices are still alive in our communities,” he said. “The key point we want to make is, indigenous practice is data science. Their whole ability to survive meant that they had to read data points in their living environment and calibrate their whole society toward living in the carrying capacity of an ecosystem, and that if kids fish and hunt, they’re data scientists.”

Enos said the hub will be designed in partnership with Create X, described on its own website as a laboratory at the University of Hawaii at West O’ahu for students to showcase their work “at the intersection of media, computation, culture, art and science.” He added that the hub aims to show that “indigenous practice is intrinsic.”

“Rural kids often feel marginalized in STEM spaces. We want to meet them where they’re at and position their cultural identity and practices as sciences that were refined over millenniums that allowed them to not deplete all their resources,” he said.

According to the announcement from the university, the data hub will be supported by $1 million from a recent $1.7 trillion federal government omnibus funding bill in 2023 that includes millions devoted to University of Hawaii education and research programs. Other projects include $30 million to support renewable energy activities at UH Mānoa through the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and sea-level rise research through the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Additional federal funding includes $5 million for a new Center for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islander (NHPIUSAPI) Health focused on serving veterans; $302 million for a high-performance computing program in the Department of Defense, which supports the Maui High Performance Computing Center; and $38 million for the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.