Tony Laulu (pictured) wears many hats – but all his roles contribute to Pacific empowerment and education – especially around technology.
Of Samoan descent, Tony has been running Digital Discipline workshops in schools, churches and community groups to help students and community members to understand the impact of screen time and social media, while also offering expert advice and support to educators, youth and community leaders around these challenges.
Tony’s business idea came from the stark realisation he was not living in the present, and spending way too much time online.
“A few years ago, I was with my boys doing the good Dad thing and hanging with them at the park.
“I was out there thinking I was spending quality time with them but it was not until my son stood me up with a question that went something like ‘why are you not looking at me’ while I was staring at my phone.
“To say that made me feel like a complete idiot is an understatement.”
Tony began to realise how many times her picked up my phone to mindlessly scroll social media.
“I came to a realisation, ‘man I think I'm addicted aye’.”
“The whole social media and technology addiction is very young compared to your traditional addictions like drugs, alcohol, smoking and gambling who all have set communities, flyers, websites, support groups to help people who have these kinds of addictions – and while looking for support, I couldn't find a single thing tailored for what I needed.”
After researching, and forming his own coping mechanisms and strategies, Tony created Digital Discipline.
His social media presence these days is to raise awareness about the pros and cons of social media and the effect it has on individuals, families, relationships, workplaces and society.
Last year, Tony successfully applied for a Toloa Community Fund grant, to give him a hand-up while growing and expanding Digital Discipline.
“It helped me with getting an initial website up and running and also with some of the passion projects we had on the go, like shooting spoken word pieces and visual content.”
Funds like the Toloa initiative helps Pacific people get their ideas off the ground, Tony says.
“Otherwise, it would have to come out of their own pocket.”
Now in its seventh year, the Toloa funds are achieving its goal of helping Pacific Aotearoa thrive in STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Maths – STEM has become STEAM.
A revamped Toloa programme has key changes including the merging of Kenese and Community funding into one fund – the Community Impact Fund.
Currently, applications for the Toloa Capability Fund, Toloa Substantial Fund and the Toloa Tertiary and Secondary School Scholarships are open.
Applications for scholarships close October 24, while the Capability and Substantial Provider Funds close on November 1.
There are many advantages to applying for the Toloa programme.
For Tony, the initiative has provided the extra boost to create an established organisation, which he would like Pacific people to be part of; while also writing bilingual books on the side.
The budding Author’s next book Where is Dad will be released next month.
Scholarships pathways will help to provide financial support and access to a wide avenue of STEAM networks such as providers, key stakeholders, employers and alumni; and the Community Impact Fund is an opportunity for providers who are currently already doing great things in STEAM.