STEM creates pathways to positive change

posted: 8:45 am - 18th March 2018

William Asiata (pictured) grew up in a community which did not have access to a lot of “flash” things – his family have always been relatively poor and although they strive, the struggle continues.   

Of Samoan descent, the Master of Information Technology student at the University of Auckland says working in his chosen course of study, he sees answers to the kinds of issues he cares about and which continue to motivate him day to day. 

“Within the ICT industry I see the potential to resolve many issues like wealth disparity and power imbalances,” William adds. 

William studied his undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science in Maths) at the University of Canterbury before starting his Masters this year. 

Recognised for his talent, passion and achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) based studies, William has been awarded one of 13 Toloa Tertiary Scholarships for 2018. 

Funded by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Toloa Scholarships aim to encourage Pacific students to pursue studies in STEM subjects at tertiary level and increase the numbers of pacific people employed into STEM careers.

 Following in the footsteps of his older brother, William has always been interested in electronics and computing systems for as long as he can remember.

“Since a young age I was often interested in things like the earth and planets, and figuring out how things work - first learning DIY stuff like how to fix, maintain and customise mine and my friends bikes, (how to make secret BBQ fires in the backyard), and then proceeding to do STEM subjects at high school and university.

William says he sees Pacific and Māori peoples often under-represented in high-skilled occupations and over-represented in low-skilled occupations – and statistics associated with the effects of poverty and deprivation. 

“I want this reality to change so Pacific people can achieve greater economic prosperity and have greater self-determination over the high-level decisions that impact our lives.”

One way to achieve change is for Pacific people far and wide to develop mastery of the latest STEM disciplines, he adds. 

“This will not only improve the economic livelihood of the families of each professional, it will also strengthen the collective capacity of Pacific peoples as a whole to implement STEM projects in direct alignment with cultural aspirations, values, and concerns. 

“It is also said those who have mastered the travel, information and communication technologies of the day have the power to architect change and greatly transform society.” 

Receiving this award has helped William financially, as well as boosting his self-esteem and making his family extremely proud. 

“It means my family will soon have a new IT expert and role model to the younger rangatahi and tamaiti,” he says. 

When he enters the workforce, William would like to pursue a career in innovative design of socially empowering technology platforms. 

“I hope these platforms can enhance community development processes and digitally enable under-served population demographics to authentically participate and be included in higher levels of social and economic activity.” 

He has aims to grow his professional skills in the IT industry, preferably in the development of social, civic and government software, he adds. 

“I have the long-term goal of starting an IT business whose mission is to develop technical solutions for community needs which I hope to achieve within 10-years’ time.” 

In addition to working on IT projects he hopes will have a positive impact on Pacific communities; William also aspires to promote mathematics, data science and ICT career skills among Pacific people and Māori. 

“If the right opportunities line up then I will do what I can to support societies across Oceania to grow intellectual sovereignty over the technologies they use.”

Visit MPP to learn more about our Toloa Tertiary Scholarships.