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Indigenous | Te Reo Māori

Reo Māori keyboard to be launched during Wiki o te reo Māori

A te reo Māori keyboard project has been launched by PB Tech with support from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Te Puni Kōkiri.

The project will launch in Wellington on September 15 as part of Te Wiki o te reo Māori and aims to increase inclusivity and diversity and help promote digital use of te reo Māori.

In a statement, PB Tech says major technology companies Microsoft and Google are throwing their support behind the initiative.

As well as providing physical keys for tohutō, or macrons, which require a combination of keys on a standard QWERTY keyboard, the Te Reo Māori Keyboard includes single keys for frequently used Māori terms and te reo naming of keys such as enter (tomo).

In conjunction with the Te Reo Māori keyboard project, a te reo spell checker solution is also in development.

An image of the numeric keyboard of the te reo Māori keyboard developed by PB Tech

Standardising te reo typing

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori says the keyboard, which enables users to toggle between a standard QWERTY keyboard and te reo, aims to become a standard throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

The commission has a stated goal of achieving one million speakers of te reo Māori by 2040.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Hine and Te Whānau a-Apanui) says, “The Te Reo Keyboard Project is a new and important way we can continue our campaign to normalise te reo Māori in everyday life.”

A simple switch with big ramifications

PB Tech head of government and healthcare, Peter Bull says users can rapidly switch between a standard QWERTY keyboard and the Te Reo Māori Keyboard.

“If you don’t press the button that turns it from normal QWERTY to te reo you lose nothing, as it operates just as a conventional keyboard. But if you are a te reo keyboardist, you push that button and instead of having to make two or three keystrokes for a Māori vowel, it happens in one.”

Peter Bull, Head of Government and healthcare PB Tech typing on a keyboard

The keyboard will be offered in three forms – as a standalone keyboard, as a conventional laptop, and as a modification to existing keyboards and laptops.

Setting the standard

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Te Puni Kōkiri have looked at te reo Māori keyboards over a number of years, and have partnered with PB Tech, which started working on this initiative more than four years ago.

“The technology challenges involved were relatively minor. The issue was in ensuring it was done appropriately and in conjunction with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori,” Bull says.

Bull, who spearheaded the project, says the offering feeds into PB Tech’s community and sustainability initiatives, including the recycling of over 30,000 devices back into the New Zealand economy last year.

“We are trying to do smart things that support government, healthcare and regional councils, and the Te Reo Māori Keyboard Project fits in with that.”

Public Interest Journalism