Building a just and equitable digital world

Building a just and equitable digital world

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Tohatoha pivots its strategic direction for 2020 to focus on digital harms and risks

AUCKLAND, 19 August 2020 – New Zealand non-profit Tohatoha announced a bold new strategic direction today, expanding the focus of its programme to prioritise education to prevent the spread of disinformation and misinformation online, build community understanding of the risks and benefits of data-driven technologies, and support local businesses as they innovate to develop alternatives to surveillance capitalism as part of its vision for “a just and equitable digital world.”

Tohatoha, originally founded in 2007 as Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ (CCANZ), is well known for spearheading public dialogue on issues around digital technology, including copyright and open access. However, today it has a new and bigger mission: To enable big conversations with and within communities, while amplifying the voices of those harmed by digital technologies and working toward solutions to build a just and equitable Internet.

Tohatoha’s CEO, Mandy Henk, says the group’s vision has always been ‘to realise the full potential of the Internet — advocating for universal access to research and education, and full participation in culture to build a stronger Aotearoa New Zealand’.

“In 2020, the dream of digital transformation driven by universal access and participation seems both more important than ever, and yet further away. That’s why Tohatoha has decided to refocus on the unwritten subtext of that vision – justice and equity for the digital world.”

Henk says the organisation’s new strategic plan includes four areas of strategic focus, with the top priority being preventing online disinformation and misinformation. This is, she says, because “digital technologies are being used in ways that have devastating impacts on community trust and democratic communities around the world.”

“Disinformation campaigns are sowing division, undermining electoral processes, and dismantling liberal democracies across the planet. We need to educate and collaborate at all levels – individual, organisational, governmental, and societal – to ensure that the technologies we build and use contribute to a more democratic society.

“Universal access and full participation can’t come about unless we partner with those who lack access and with those who are excluded from participation. The future is ours to create – and the more deliberate and intentional we are about building that future, the brighter it will be–for all of us.”

Henk says that while the new strategic direction has been in development for some time, it is fitting that it is being announced amidst the turbulent times of 2020.

“There’s a positive lesson we can take from 2020, and it’s that the world can change. Way back in 2007 when CCANZ was founded, the digital world promised a future of technological wonders, but today we are still far from delivering that potential to everyone,” she says.

“As an organisation we will continue to do our work through education, advocacy, and community building, and we will soon make some more announcements about what that’s going to look like and how New Zealanders can participate.”

For more information about Tohatoha’s new Strategic Direction and its work in New Zealand, visit



Vision – A just and equitable digital world–for Aotearoa and the planet.

Mission – Enable big conversations with and within our communities, while amplifying the voices of those harmed by digital technologies and working toward solutions to build an equitable and just Internet.


  1. Our first commitment is to Te Tiriti O Waitangi. The transformation of New Zealand into a just and equitable digital nation is an aspiration that can best be achieved by centring around our nation’s founding document and founding commitment.
  2. Our second commitment is that we will work to ensure that the digital world is as close to carbon-free as possible. Just as we did with COVID-19, so now we must do with climate change. As we build the social, technical, legal, and economic infrastructure for our future as a digital nation, we must also create a world that emits less carbon year after year.

Areas of Focus

Our four programme areas build on Tohatoha’s expertise as tenders of the digital commons. We have over a decade of experience working with New Zealand’s public service, institutions, and communities to build New Zealand’s understanding of the legal and ethical frameworks that govern how we use digital technologies. This plan expands on that work and updates it for the challenges of today.

  1. Education to prevent the spread of Disinformation and Misinformation … because digital technologies are being used in ways that have devastating impacts on community trust and democratic communities around the world.
  2. Building Frameworks and Knowledge about governments’ use of data driven technologies … because data-driven technologies are transforming how governments collect, manage, and use information raising new questions about how to design transparent and safe public services.
  3. Finding alternatives to Surveillance Capitalism … because the commodification of our digital interactions and activity has transformed the world into one with more people, participation, and problems online, but new business and ownership models have the potential to unlock a better digital world.
  4. Educating about Copyright, NZGOAL, and Open Access to Public Knowledge … because access to public knowledge is key to an open and transparent culture and government and to enable participation by communities throughout New Zealand

– ENDS –

For more information, or interview requests, contact:
Brendan Boughen
Comms Manager, Tohatoha
Mobile: 027 839 6044

About Tohatoha
Tohatoha is a New Zealand incorporated society with a long history of supporting New Zealand communities to understand and engage with digital technologies and information access issues—legally and ethically. Tohatoha is now broadening its work to help New Zealanders understand the legal and ethical complexities of new digital and data-driven technologies, which are central to people’s ability to participate safely and fully in 21st century life. Building on our experience with community-based workshops and conversations on copyright issues, Tohatoha is now working to help people understand issues from algorithms to online propaganda, to build the trust New Zealand needs to maximise the social and economic benefits of digital technologies— for all New Zealanders.

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