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Paving the way for Pacific transformation in tech

30 October 2023

Julia Arnott-Neenee could have made her millions overseas but chose to return to Aotearoa to stand up against inequity and advocate for the Pacific community in the tech, business and commercial sectors.


Now she has been recognised with a Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) Young Alumni Award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category for her impact as co-founder and CEO of Fibre Fale, a purpose-led collective founded to create pathways for Pacific people in tech. 

Fibre Fale was co-founded by Arnott-Neenee and Eteroa Lafaele under the shared vision to create pathways for more Pacific people to embrace technology. Both young Pacific leaders, Arnott-Neenee and Ladaele are committed to growth and tautua (service) for their communities and creating resources to help Pacific people to journey from being consumers to creators in the tech space.

Arnott-Neenee graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in 2015 and during her studies, she threw herself into a variety of new experiences. “I got involved in Entré, I did Outward Bound, I went to China and I was part of UC Pasifika,” she says. 

“When I got to dabble in all these different spaces and places, I experienced that feeling of belonging and acceptance that I could be this person, which is what has probably held me in such good stead for the rest of my career.” 

Since leaving UC, she has excelled globally, working for the World Economic Forum and as the Worldwide Products Insights Manager and Global Social Strategy Lead for Hewlett Packard (HP). 

Arnott-Neenee stood out because of her decision to return to Aotearoa despite thriving in her career. “I was working for HP in London and I was starting to observe more and more that not everyone is going to be able to benefit from the way the tech world is progressing,” she says. 

“That was really that huge moment for me because I realised that actually, I want to take my professional skills and come back home to serve my community and ensure that Pacific people are able to keep up and are designing the future.” 

Arnott-Neenee has committed to being the voice she needed as a young woman, to empower and grow others. 

“At Fibre Fale, we co-design and deliver immersive tech programmes and experiences, share the stories of Pacific people in tech to create visibility and amplify the voices of our community,” she says. “And we create platforms and spaces for Pacific people to connect, learn and grow.”

Their mission is to create a future where Pacific people have digital equity, are confident pursuing pathways in digital technologies and see themselves as future creators.

Arnott-Neenee says currently, only 4.4% of the technology industry workforce in Aotearoa are Pacific people. 

“Fibre Fale is all about trying to design programmes and interventions to see that number shift and change. More than that, we really want to see more startups, more tech companies actually be led and be championed and owned by Pacific people as well.” 

UC Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist is delighted to recognise Arnott-Neenee for making significant contributions within the community of Aotearoa with her UC-earned qualifications. 

“Julia’s commitment to fostering empowerment for Pacific youth on a global scale is inspiring. The impact she is creating in her community aligns with UC’s vision of empowering people to make a difference,” he says.

The momentum is only expected to keep building, particularly given Arnott-Neenee has raised $1.7 million in philanthropic funding and over the past year Fibre Fale has engaged with over 1000 Pacific people. “It's not just the stats, it's also breaking new ground for our own community. For community-led solutions to get that level of resource and backing is impact in and of itself.

“If I can fight for change, and put myself forward for change, that feels like a life worth living. That is a life worth living.”

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