• Mikaela Jade, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tom Calma at Parliament House in Canberra (AAP/Mick Tsikas)Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas
The app will enable users to learn Indigenous stories at sites of cultural significance, through their mobile phones. Indigenous developer Mikaela Jade will showcase the ‘Digital Rangers’ app at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest environmental conservation event, to be held in Hawaii next month.

23 Aug 2016 - 4:14 PM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2016 - 4:14 PM

In many Aboriginal cultures, knowledge and stories are passed down like inheritance. Grandmothers teach granddaughters, and grandfathers teach grandsons. Stories must be learned in-situ, straight from the source. Contemporary life often gets in the way of traditional learning, but technology could now change all that.

Mikaela Jade is the engine behind InDigital Pty Ltd, the Indigenous-owned company that developed the eagerly awaited ‘Digital Ranger’ App, which turns “mobile phones into eyes”.

“Indigenous people are among the most innovative people in the world, and we do use complex technology, and we are able to lead in this space of digital technology,” Mikaela has previously told NITV News.

The app allows users to learn the stories of places of significance, such as rock art sites or specific natural formations, by pointing their phones at the sites.  In some cases, the app would use augmented reality technology to produce sound, images or holograms of elders telling a story. The app will be available in many languages, to enhance the experience of tourists hoping to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

“I’m very proud to be able to discuss our InDigital experience at this important congress, and have InDigital sponsor this dialogue together with Tribal Link and the GEF Small Grants Programme,” writes Mikaela on her website.


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At the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Mikaela will be discussing how Indigenous Peoples can utilise and develop digital technologies to support and protect their communities and cultural heritage. She will also showcase the Digital Rangers app as an example of ethical digitalisation of cultural information to promote Indigenous economic development and cultural conservation.

"The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is an important document, however because it was adopted in 2007 before anyone had a smartphone in their hands, it specifically lacks articles directly related to the use of Information and Communication Technologies by, with or for Indigenous Peoples," says Mikaela.

Digital technologies have raised ethical and real-world questions regarding intellectual property rights, ownership, use, and consent to publish cultural information. The wide-spread use of smart phones has created a global culture of capturing and sharing images and video instantly, without a second thought.  These practices don’t satisfy existing articles within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as mandatory “free, prior and informed consent.”  

"The session at the IUCN Congress will focus on the advantages of using newly available digital tools, such as drones, smart phones, GIS to map and monitor indigenous territories from illegal activities, but also the threats and challenges that accompany their use when taken into the wrong hands," Mikaela says.