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The Apple Inc. store is seen on the day of the new iPhone 7 smartphone launch in Los Angeles. Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Apple has refused to launch an Australian Indigenous app and now faces backlash. The Cupertino-based company reportedly wanted to make changes to its content, which infuriated the app’s developer. The creator of the app said that she made the issue public to raise awareness of the issues that Indigenous developers like her go through.

Mikaela Jade, CEO of an Australian Indigenous digital agency, said that Apple had initially agreed to publish her company’s app, but the tech giant ultimately withdrew on the launch day itself. Jade, who is based in Kakadu National Park, said she was “shocked” that Apple rejected three years’ worth of labour and development the last minute because the app did not meet its requirements.

Jade developed her augmented reality app called Indigital Storytelling with senior traditional owners in Jabiru. The app features image recognition enhancements to create digital versions of traditional stories. The initial output was seamlessly made available to Android users on Wednesday via Google.

“It was accessed by Indigenous people from Borneo, from Barbados, over in New Zealand. There were non-Indigenous people in Ireland telling me it was great,” Jade told ABC.

Jade said that even though the app passed various stages of the App Store review process, Apple in the end declared the app’s usefulness as “limited.” The tech giant did point out, however, that “there are no hard and fast rules to define useful or entertaining.”

Apple wants Indigital Storytelling to include more content that is within its review principles, but Jade and her company refuse to modify their cultural app. “The concept is to allow Indigenous people to share our stories in the digital economy in the way we want to share them,” said Jade. She further added that the app will carry “80,000 years of Indigenous scientific knowledge and laws passed down through thousands of generations.”

Jade said that she received a great deal of help with the app from several people, including elders in Australia and individuals at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The cultural app was also praised and funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Jade said that a different approach is required to improve the digital engagement of Indigenous people.

The Indigenous entrepreneur said that the conflict with Apple is an example of “digital colonisation,” which forces the digital culture of Indigenous people to conform to non-Indigenous boundaries. Jade insisted that the app will stay the way it was designed by her people.