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Stats NZ convenes Data Ethics Advisory Group

30 July 2019

A Data Ethics Advisory Group has been formed today by the Government Chief Data Steward (GCDS) Liz MacPherson, Chief Executive of Stats NZ.

Collecting and using public data are both important in the state sector. Policymakers need good data to understand the demand for government services and, ultimately, to improve them.

“There are countless opportunities and benefits that new and emerging uses of data can provide to the state sector, but we mustn’t lose sight of the importance of people in that data,” Ms MacPherson said.

“To this end, I have convened an independent Data Ethics Advisory Group to help government agencies use data appropriately and effectively, ensuring that New Zealanders can have trust and confidence in the way their data is collected and used.”

A report on government use of algorithms released last year detailed how government agencies are using automated analytical tools to harness the power of data and deliver better services to the public. Up until this point, there have been limited ways to provide assurance that these tools are being used appropriately. (See Government algorithm transparency to download and read the report.)

In response to the report, the Data Ethics Advisory Group has been established to bring in perspectives and expertise from outside government on the use of data.

“As public servants, we need to be honest and acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. This Group will help ensure decisions around the use of data are made with input from people who have a range of backgrounds and expertise,” Ms MacPherson said. “As Government Statistician, I am excited to be able to bring our own work to this Group to challenge our thinking and gain independent advice and guidance.”

Group members were appointed after an expression of interest process. Specifically, expertise was sought in the areas of privacy and human rights law, ethics, innovative data use, te Ao Māori, technology, and public policy.

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, Professor Juliet Gerrard has been appointed as the Group’s Chair.

“I’m looking forward to convening this important group. It will provide a forum in which to discuss in depth the great opportunities that the combination of data and technology can bring to benefit Aotearoa New Zealand, while keeping front of mind the growing challenges we will face to ensure that our data is appropriately and sensitively treated, and that data sovereignty is respected,” Professor Gerrard said.

Members of the Group

The newly appointed members are:
Chair: Professor Juliet Gerrard – Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Auckland and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor
Dr Amohia Boulton – Director of Whakaue Research Services, Adjunct Professor Faculty of Health and Environmental Services at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington
Dr Ang Jury – Chief Executive, Women’s Refuge
Dr Will Koning – Chief Data Officer, Kantar New Zealand
Kate O’Connor – Executive Manager, AUT Ethics Committee
Dr Nessa Lynch – Associate Professor of Law, Victoria University of Wellington
Professor Colin Simpson – Associate Dean of Research and Innovation, Victoria University of Wellington.

One other member of the Group will be appointed shortly and will be a representative of Te Ao Māori Co-Design Group, which supports the Māori Data Governance work.

The Group will meet four times a year in Wellington. Both the function and membership of the group will be reviewed after 12 months.

Data Ethics Advisory Group has more information about the Group and its operation.


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