Award for revitalizing the Māori language with computers

Photo courtesy of Ako Aotearoa.

A man whose passions for the Māori language and computing helped revitalize the ancient indigenous tongue in modern New Zealand has been awarded its Prime Minister’s Supreme Award.

Dr. Te Taka Keegan, senior lecturer in the Computer Science Department at the University of Waikato, has worked with Microsoft on several hardware and software projects.

From 2000-2004, Te Taka (pictured left with Prime Minister Bill English) helped Microsoft to enable PC keyboards to produce the special markings needed in writing text in the Māori language, known as te reo Māori. The feature quickly became standard in New Zealand, where studying and using the Māori language is enjoying a renaissance. He later worked with a Microsoft team to create Māori versions of Windows and Office.

“Microsoft should share in this celebration and in my award, they really should,’ says Te Taka. ‘They were very open to the idea to not only adapt the keyboard but also to translate Office and Windows into Māori.

“Because of the work we did together, all schools in New Zealand can now offer computing facilities in te reo Māori to children. That’s an awesome thing.”

Microsoft Schools Manager, Anne Taylor, who works closely with Te Taka, says his passion is “inspiring”.

“Time and again, the hard work of people like Te Taka shows that culture thrives when it’s interwoven into modern life, and Māori on Microsoft is a strong example of exactly that,” she says. “We look forward to interweaving te reo into all our technology.”

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