Designing Kemps Creek datacenters in partnership with the local Indigenous community
Microsoft is joining the community in Kemps Creek, New South Wales with the construction of our new datacenter development along Mamre Road. As we plan our presence, we are grateful to partner with local leaders who can help us design facilities that reflect the needs and values of our neighbors. Indigital, an Indigenous consultancy specializing in technology education and augmented reality experiences, is joining us to help design a datacenter that reflects the culture and needs of the local Indigenous community.
Creating welcoming spaces and services
For the planned datacenter facilities in Kemps Creek, Indigital is working together with Microsoft and design firm Arup to create physical spaces and digital training programs that reflect the cultural knowledge, communication style, and language of the Cabrogal and Dharug-speaking communities. Indigital’s stated goal is to “create a place that the entire community can be proud of.”
Bringing together the Indigenous community and the business sector is Indigital’s specialty. Cabrogal woman Mikaela Jade of the Dharug-speaking nations of Sydney established Indigital to bridge the digital divide among First Nations peoples. Indigital approaches digital technology both as a medium for sharing Indigenous heritage through augmented reality and as an area of economic opportunity for the Indigenous community. Indigital’s signature app Indigital Storytelling, for example, brings together drones, 4D mapping software, image recognition technology, and cultural law to create immersive experiences of Indigenous cultural sites. And Indigital Schools offer technical training programs developed with an Indigenous cultural lens, providing a meaningful pathway into the digital economy for Indigenous people.
Phase one: Connecting with Country
Our Kemps Creek datacenter project began in late spring 2022, when Indigital invited 26 local Cabrogal Community and Dharug Elders to consider how the significance of Ngurra or Nura (‘Country’ in the Dharug language, the place to which people have cultural, spiritual, and social connections) to the Cabrogal Dharug People could be included in the facility design. Based on their conversation, the group created four interactive artworks and placemaking attributes for the Kemps Creek datacenter site. Drawing on Indigital’s expertise in augmented reality, the team developed a machine learning algorithm, trained it to think like Dharug, and then worked with the machine to develop the interactive, animated exhibits.
We are connecting to Country not only through art and story, but also through landscaping that respects the Indigenous understanding of the land. As part of our work with Indigital, a Cabrogal Cultural Ecologist will help select hardy Indigenous plant species, drawing on the community’s traditional knowledge base of what species are important to the habitat.
Phase two: Deepening community connections
Phase two of the project will deepen connections to the community through local digital skills training programs. Guided by the stories of Cabrogal and Dharug Elders and community members, Indigital will deliver digital training programs in twenty schools in the Western Sydney area reaching 500 students over the next six months. Cultural storytelling is central to Indigital’s datacenter project—these stories help unpack the cultural significance of the datacenter building façade artwork and the interactive installations. Students will gain a deeper understanding of Cabrogal and Dharug cultural knowledge, history, and language by working closely with storytellers. As part of their technical training, students will help produce art installations using augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D animation technology. They will build basic digital skills in the use of PCs and laptops as well as in applications like Paint3D and Minecraft.
Working together with Indigital, Microsoft hopes to design a facility that reflects the local cultural knowledge, language, and Nura of Kemps Creek. A Dharug Cultural Ecologist will help select hardy Indigenous plant species for the datacenter’s landscaping. At the same time, the project creates opportunities for community members to build their digital skills and prepare for job opportunities in the technology sector. Perhaps most important, the Indigital project builds connections among the local community, Microsoft, and the datacenter site itself, as students and First Nation storytellers work together to bring 80,000 years of history on this land into the digital present.