Eteroa Lafaele first moved to Auckland for university in 2014. Since then she has made a major impact on her community through her initiative Digitautua: an organisation that refurbishes laptops and provides them to tamariki.
Eteroa is passionate about bridging the digital divide for Māori and Pasifika. On the first day of lockdown, a number of community leaders reached out to her for help getting devices to students who needed them for e-learning at home. Eteroa first went to LinkedIn to call out for people to donate their old devices, which she and her team refurbished and sent out to tamariki.
“The main thing was how students didn’t have devices or a device at all for e-learning. It costs $500 for a Chromebook, and many families just don’t have the means.”
However, it soon became clear that the demand for devices was great - she received over 700 requests for laptops in just two days.
“We had more demand than we had laptops.”
In the hopes of procuring more funding and old laptops for refurbishment, Eteroa has created a GiveALittle page, where the wider community can donate to help get students a laptop and work towards learning equity during COVID.
Ultimately, Eteroa’s passion for Digitautua stems from her desire to give back to her Pasifika community.
“It’s all out of love. I advocate for more Māori and Pasifika in tech, but I can’t do that if our people don't have access to devices.”
“We‘re trying to cover the digital divide, which needs three key pillars: resources, connectivity and education. At the moment all pillars are folding. Many people don’t even have internet at home. Our main focus at Digitautua is to prop up those resources, but there’s still more people waiting around the motu.”
Recently, Eteroa found out that one of the rangatahi who used a Digitautua laptop to study for her school exams has been awarded a university scholarship.
“Stories like that make the mahi worth it. It made me cry. It validated the mana or purpose of what we’re doing and shows that resources can really open doors for places that not many in our community really get to go.”
Similarly, we think it’s stories like Eteroa’s that makes all our Tāmaki Makaurau lockdown mahi worth it. Tautoko to you Eteroa, thank you for being an Awesome Aucklander!