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AI Forum research provides a policy framework for NZ

25th September 2019

AI Forum research provides a policy framework for Artificial Intelligence in New Zealand

The AI Forum’s latest research “Towards our Intelligent Future” provides a policy framework for artificial intelligence highlighting the significant opportunity of AI to address well-being, sustainability and economic issues.

The framework follows OECD recommendations of five key steps for nations to take to maximise benefits from artificial intelligence, beyond commercial aims and objectives.

It gives business, organisations and Government tools to act now, and create AI driven solutions to key issues and challenges.

The AI Forum research is supported by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), as one of its Principal Partners, along with Spark, ANZ, Google, IAG and Microsoft.

The urgency for a national approach is emphasised by many of New Zealand’s peer nations investing significantly in research and development, AI start-ups and growing talent.

Ben Reid, Executive Director of the AI Forum, says the research project and framework is in tune with New Zealand’s overall policy direction, as outlined by the Rt. Hon. Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance, in this year’s first Well-Being Budget:

“The policy is an open source template for all to take, revise and use so it’s fit for their own purpose - it is a practical tool for all Kiwis so they can roll up their sleeves and get on with being the innovators we are. Our aim is to provide the impetus for New Zealand to take advantage of the significant benefits AI offers.

“We’ve based it on the best practice of other nations, and 12 months’ of research so it’s comparable with any other nation’s. AI is in tune with our country’s direction on economic measures beyond GDP and the opportunity to take full advantage of AI is timely.”

The AI Forum’s roadmap covers the five guidelines put forward by the OECD including encouraging private and public investment, having a safe environment for data sharing, enabling trustworthy AI systems, empowering people and cooperation.

It says there is no shortage of major challenges to which AI technologies can be applied directly to address New Zealand’s well-being and sustainability challenges. AI also has a significant role to play in increasing the productivity and international competitiveness of New Zealand businesses and the resilience of our economy.

“For so long artificial intelligence has been painted as having an unwanted impact on society as a result of it being used to replace jobs.

“Our research turns this view around along with PwC and McKinsey economic models showing more jobs being created because of an abundance of new technology and innovation including AI. This aligns with the Productivity Commission’s recent draft report on the future of technology and jobs in New Zealand which finds that there is too little technology-related change in New Zealand, not too much.

“One of the biggest challenges is changing the perception - if we don’t manage to do this, we won’t invest, research, innovate and we will lose out - and this has huge implications for all aspects of life,” Reid says.

AI is also a new tool for politicians and policy makers to enable better Government services, public sector productivity and value for money. But this requires reliable and trustworthy data.

”Data should be considered as an infrastructure that underpins our national future, and it needs to be collected, curated, structured and linked so it can deliver value - to do this, we need to explore using data trusts that enable the trustworthy and legal sharing of data for common good outcomes.

“As a nation we have plentiful supplies of data that is nationally significant to add value to our well-being, sustainability and economy. Data needs to be considered as another natural resource.

“New Zealand is in the right place at the right time. We have a developed economy with high digital penetration and it is easy to do business here. Typically we adopt new technology very quickly but with AI there are some perception and practical hurdles to overcome for us to benefit fully.

“We believe our policy framework provides a practical way to help, for our Government and all New Zealanders.”


Link to the research study:

Significant New Zealand AI projects include:

Microsoft - Sustainable Coastlines, a registered New Zealand Charity, was recently awarded a Microsoft AI for Earth grant for its efforts to raise awareness of marine litter and inspire communities to take care of beaches and waterways. A national marine litter database is being established so schools, Iwi, community groups and businesses can view the data and trends in their area. The intelligent platform also evaluates international weather, tide and ocean current data to help predict future litter accumulation.

Google - Google is a founding partner of Global Fishing Watch ( This service brings big satellite data, the latest machine learning, and cloud computing technology to bear on human interactions with the oceans’ natural resources. The resulting near real-time map shows where vessels are fishing, allowing better monitoring of global fish reserves, including the seas around New Zealand.

Spark - using AI to analyse increasingly complex sets of data to streamline operations and improve customer segmentation, churn, lifetime value prediction, recommendation engines and customer sentiment analysis.

ANZ - in partnership with Soul Machines creating Jamie, a digital assistant, to answer the 30 most frequently questions searched. In the first 100 days, Jamie had 1200 conversations and the pilot has been extended.

MBIE - is supporting a range of contestable investment funds, including: weather analysis and forecasting (Met Service), machine learning (Landcare NZ), mapping and environment friendly control of weeds (AgResearch), autonomous Forest Pruning and technology for screening blindness. The Ministry aims to support projects including AgTech, environment, urban planning, space industry, health sector (ie: precision health) and energy.

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The AI Forum of New Zealand was established in 2017 and is a non-government association with a mission to harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help bring about a prosperous and inclusive future New Zealand. This year it formally adopted its Te Reo Maori name, Te Kahui Atamai Iahiko o Aotearoa. In two years its membership has reached 144 organisations from industry, government and universities, it holds regular events nationwide, hosts an annual showcase conference and fosters vibrant conversation and debate. The Forum brings together citizens, business, academia and the government connecting, promoting and advancing Aotearoa’s AI ecosystem.

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