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Ben Reid

AI Forum in Otago

Kia Ora

Last week, we held our first AI Forum Event in Dunedin with a packed house, kindly hosted by the Signal ICT Graduate School.

The event showcased AI-related research underway at the University of Otago, with Prof James MacLaurin and Joy Liddicoat from the AI and Law in New Zealand Project and Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Public Policy sharing their work with a highly engaged audience spanning community, university and tech sector.  We also heard from Steven Mills about deep learning techniques applied to heritage and techniques for introducing intelligent agents into gameplay from Rocketwerkz’ Amy Harman.

The speakers joined for a panel discussion, facilitated by Prof Colin Gavaghan which kept going well into the evening!  Searching questions from the audience kept coming, covering the social, ethical and legal aspects of AI together with topics including the perceived dominance of Chinese and American AI companies, individual privacy in the age of AI and how to get started learning AI/ML skills.   Thank you Otago for a warm welcome and stimulating discussion.  Let’s do it again soon.

In other news, we are excited to announce our first keynote speakers for next year’s AI-DAY event in Auckland, 27-28 March.  The line up includes Silicon Valley based Kiwi Sean Gourley, founder and CEO of fast growing US machine learning firm Primer and ‘open government ninja’ Pia Andrews, Executive Director for Digital Government in NSW, Australia.  It’s going to be an amazing event and we’ll be sharing more updates in the coming weeks.  AI-DAY 2019 includes the return of the popular workshops programme and a new weekend hackathon as well.  Discounted early bird tickets are now on sale, so get in early to secure your spot.

Following up on the release of the Government’s Algorithm Assessment Report two weeks ago, there are some real positives here, the bottom line being that there is, genuine awareness of the various issues and concerns – and the foundation of a consistent, all-of-government approach to action.  Congratulations to Government Chief Data Steward Liz MacPherson and the teams at Stats NZ and DIA who delivered this report.  We look forward to hearing the next steps.

In one example of practical algorithm use in New Zealand Government, Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) Nic Blakeley explains how predictive models are already making a difference in people’s lives in New Zealand; For all the Jaydens out there.  MSD’s team have published information on their website, including videos and information aimed at clients, on how the models work.  Positive to see this transparent approach being adopted.

The AI Forum will be facilitating the How can AI be used to drive better outcomes in industry and government? speaker panel, at next month’s 31st Australasian Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in  Wellington.  There is a 15% conference registration discount available for AI Forum members.  Contact the event organisers for more info

Next week I’ll be reconnecting with the international Partnership on AI community at the annual all-partners meeting in San Francisco.  I look forward to reporting back on global AI developments in the next newsletter.

Best regards

Ben Reid
Executive Director
Be Involved


The final AI Show for the year is on 7 November in Auckland.  Join the AI in Health Symposium, part of the HiNZ’s digital health conference, 21-23 November in Wellington.  Missed Microsoft’s Future Now event in Auckland last month?  View keynote talks here.

Join the New Zealand IoT Alliance’s first Connect Event on 20 November in Auckland.  Discussion includes security analysis and IoT at the edge.  Register for the New Zealand FinTech Summit on 29 November in Auckland.

In local news,  MedicMind’s AI is being used to predict common eye diseases.  AutoGrow is developing AI for commercial growersAuckland University pumps more funding into Soul Machines with Uniservices currently owning 15 percent of the company.  Read Russell Craig’s opinion piece on maximising AI opportunities, without trampling ethics or destroying jobs.

In international news, to help solve border control problems and policing demand, an AI powered lie detector will question travellers at European borders.  Meanwhile,  Facebook is using AI to help fight child exploitation.  In the last quarter, 99% of the content they proactively removed for violating their exploitation policies was removed before anyone reported it to us.

In other news, New Zealand has once again topped the World Bank’s ranking of the best country to start and run a business!

Australia has began mapping its AI ecosystem, with its first tally at 53 startups.   In case you missed it, here’s an overview of Israel’s AI landscape.

Entries for the 2019 Hi-Tech Awards open on 3  December.  Join the launch events on 28 November in Auckland5 December in Wellington and 6 December in Christchurch.  Save the date for the Awards Gala Dinner on 24 May in Auckland.

Learn more about Google’s  AI for Social Good programme, including the AI Impact Challenge, applying AI to some of the world’s biggest challenges!  Applications close 22 January.  Is your company ready to scale up with international growth? Entries for #TechRocketshipANZ close 23 November.

The 31st Australasian Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence  is 11-14 December in Wellington.

Save these 2019 event dates; Tech Marketers conference on 28 February, AI-Day on 28 March and Techweek 20-26 May.

Ben Reid I head up the AI Forum of New Zealand - working to harness the power of AI to help bring about a prosperous and inclusive future for New Zealand and the world. The AI Forum NZ brings together technology firms, businesses, universities and the government to connect, promote and advance the national AI ecosystem.