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Cultural knowledge vital in artificial intelligence project

Cultural knowledge vital in artificial intelligence project

  • 20 Sep 2021
Toloa Tertiary Scholarship 2020 recipient Luke Fitzpatrick 0 850 0 0 ScaleMaxHeightWzYwMF0

Toloa Tertiary Scholarship recipient Luke Fitzpatrick (pictured) is now a successful Transportation Engineer at Beca.

Engineering graduate Luke Fitzpatrick says through the Toloa initiative, he has gained the knowledge and confidence his culture is valuable not only to him, but also to the industry he now works in. 

Of Samoan descent, Luke completed his Engineering degree in 2020 and graduated from the University of Auckland in 2021 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with First Class Honours in Engineering Science. 

The 22-year-old received a Ministry for Pacific Peoples Toloa Tertiary Scholarship to assist him in his final year of studies. 

The Toloa Tertiary Scholarships cover tertiary tuition fees and compulsory course related fees up to $10,000 for one year of fulltime study for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) -related courses and subjects.

Now in its seventh year, the Toloa initiative is achieving its goal of helping Pacific Aotearoa thrive in STEAM – with the Arts recently added to the mix.  

Luke says it was an honour to be a recipient of a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship. 

“It gave me confidence in my abilities and made me appreciate even more the success of all Pacific who paved the way and are still helping and giving amazing opportunities to our people,” he says. 

“Along with gaining financial support, I was able to connect with Pacific communities within MPP and elsewhere.” 

Luke’s hard work and skill has earnt him a position at Beca, as a Transportation Engineer where he works on transport projects, aimed at improving communities and keeping people safe. 

In addition to this, Luke has a key role in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Team at Beca, helping to bring Samoan and Pacific culture into technology, and give a voice to our Pacific communities. 

“We started the Talanoa Project, where we created multilingual and multicultural virtual agents which listen to people’s views, aspirations, and feedback in whichever language people feel comfortable with, be that English or Samoan,” he explains.

“I worked with communities and found our Pacific people, especially the elder generations relish the opportunities to have a conversation in a culturally familiar way.”

Pacific people have strong community and family values and so can provide understanding and purpose in many areas, which is crucial in a community shaping and transport role, Luke adds.

“Regarding AI, the most valuable aspect we have in our new technology is the ability not only to just translate a language, but to understand a culture and know how to speak and present information in a culturally appropriate way. 

“This can’t be done by any translation service; it can only be done by Pacific people who understand the culture.” 

It is an exciting space to work in, and Luke is thriving with the learning experience, while also incorporating his cultural knowledge into his career. 

He credits the Toloa initiative with helping him on his path, by providing financial support and boosting recipients’ confidence to represent their culture proudly. 

“I encourage people to apply for the programme as it allows people to see why Pacific people, their knowledge and values are so important in the modern workforce.” 

Applications for Toloa Scholarships are now open