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Ben Reid

Less coffee and more AI cat photos?

Now that we are in February, the year is gearing up with plenty happening in the AI world, so this newsletter is a little larger than usual!

AI-DAY 2019

The AI-DAY 2019 team has announced a stellar lineup of speakers at this year’s conference on 27-28 March in Auckland. I’m looking forward to an impressive programme of cutting edge discussion about AI’s rapid advancement and how New Zealand should adapt. Tickets are selling quickly, so please register early to avoid disappointment. AI Forum members are entitled to a discount, so please contact us for a promo code.

New Zealand Tech Alliance

I recently attended the launch events in Auckland and Wellington for the New Zealand Tech Alliance. The Alliance is a group of independent technology associations, including the AI Forum, that work together to ensure a strong voice for technology throughout New Zealand. It brings together 20 associations and over 800 organisations that collectively employ more than 100,000 New Zealanders. Together, we provide a voice for the Kiwi tech ecosystem that is redefining the world we live in. Our shared purpose is to help the economy grow and create a prosperous Digital Nation.

There are multiple opportunities for New Zealand’s tech ecosystem to connect and collaborate more effectively. This month we’re hosting a joint AI Forum and FinTechNZ event series in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, How will AI transform the customer experience across financial services? These events include speakers and discussions exploring how AI technologies are going to affect a key sector in New Zealand’s economy going forward. Thinking back to last year’s Shaping a Future New Zealand report, the financial and insurance services sector showed the greatest economic potential from AI efficiencies, as shown below.

Less Coffee, More Productivity?

Going slightly off topic, at the Wellington Tech Alliance event, panelist (and AI Forum Executive Council member) Google’s Ross Young made one particular reflection that resonated with me – how New Zealand’s business and Government culture still operates largely on face-to-face relationships, the ubiquitous ‘catch up over coffee’ meeting invite. On one hand this happens by virtue of our small size and two-degrees-of-separation connectedness, but it also sets New Zealand apart from larger (more efficient?) economies where large distances and traffic congestion mitigates against in-person meetings as the default. As someone who is constantly trying to optimise their time, my personal approach these days is increasingly to reply to in-person meeting requests by asking, “what is it specifically that I could help with (in three bullet points)?” which can lead to a rapid email solution. Alternatively, “can we schedule a video call instead?” In New Zealand, I believe we could be more productive (and carbon neutral) by replacing one hour meetings over coffee with three 20 min video calls. Having said that, I still enjoy drinking a *lot* of excellent coffee with a *lot* of very interesting and intelligent people!

Invitation to contribute to Māori engagement

Moving into our second full year of existence, we are well aware that the AI Forum’s engagement with the Māori community needs to grow. We have a new initiative to increase the use of Te Reo in our content and to build better links with tangata whenua. If you are interested in exploring Māori AI initiatives in 2019, please get in touch.

AI in Government

  • The team at the Government Chief Digital Office (GCDO) are currently refreshing the New Zealand Government Digital Strategy and embarking upon the next round of consultation and workshops. Find out more information and get involved here.

AI for Social Good Update

Applications for the Google AI Impact Challenge have now closed. A big shout out to all the Kiwi teams who entered to benefit from grant funding from a $25M pool. We are looking forward to hearing which projects are selected to go forward!

Building Links with Australian AI Ecosystem

AI Forum Knowledge Hub online

Last week we launched the new AI Forum Knowledge Hub on our website. We are curating knowledge, data, case studies and learning resources for those with an interest in AI in New Zealand. There is also a link to suggest content to be included and please let us know what you would like to share.

…and finally, AI-Generated Cat Pictures!

Purely for fun and entertainment, check out these AI-generated cat images – produced by the Style-Based Generator Architecture for Generative Adversarial Networks (Style-GAN). You can download the source code and try it out yourself. Don’t forget to book your ticket for next month’s AI-DAY! I also look forward to seeing you on 14 February in Wellington, 21 February in Auckland and 27 February in Christchurch.


Join us on 14 February in Wellington, 21 February in Auckland and 27 February in Christchurch. Free for AI Forum members. Tech Alliance members receive two tickets for the price of one for Wellington and Christchurch. Use promo code: TA2FOR25

What does the future of New Zealand’s public sector look like? Register to attend the Future Government Summit, 26-27 February, 2019 and help create a roadmap for the future. Includes GovTech, tech trends, innovation and more.

What’s the difference between robots and humans? Attend the annual Great AI debate on 9 May in Auckland to discuss the impact of AI on people and society. Tickets available soon.

The Lighting Lab Tourismprogramme is now accepting applications. Attend the launch event on 13 February in Christchurch. Other roadshow dates to be announced.

Attend AgriFutures evokeAG, 19-20 February in Melbourne. AI Forum’s Ben Reid is presenting on the rise of AI in the primary sector at MobileTECH 2019, 3-4 April in Rotorua. Early bird tickets are available until 22 February.

Register for the TechMarketers 2019 Conference on 28 February in Auckland, or forward to your Marketing colleagues. Email now to get your NZ Tech community discount code.

The United Kingdom’s festival of data innovation is 11-22 March. DataFest19 will showcase Scotland’s leading role in data science and AI. DataFest19 includes the Data Summit, Data Talent, Data Tech, Women in Data Science and fringe events. Find out more.

Amazon is hosting re:MARS 2019 on 4-7 June in Las Vegas, USA. This is a new AI event for machine learning, automation, robotics and space, combining science with practical application to accelerate innovation. Register your interest and read more here.

In local news, FinTechNZ’s James Brown says New Zealand is moving rapidly towards a cashless society. Transpower is using AI and drones to improve safety and detect faults.

In other news, is China’s corruption busting ‘Zero Trust’ being turned off for being too efficient? United Kingdom based charity, Nesta is mapping global approaches to AI governance

While the Australian Government has committed $29.9m over four years there are fears that Australia will be left behind with minimal AI funding. In case you missed it, here’s CB Insights AI trends for 2019.

From McKinsey, insight on how AI can help government agencies solve complex public sector problems. Plus, how AI is poised to bring extreme personalisation to classrooms.

Join the public workshops and have your say on the Copyright Act Review, 12 February in Christchurch, 21/22 February in Auckland or 1 March in Wellington. MFAT submissions for a free trade agreement close 11 February.

Considering entering the 2019 Hi-Tech Awards? Here’s six reasons why you should enter. Entries close 4 March and finalists will be announced on 27 March. Save the date for the  Gala Dinner, 24 May in Auckland, during Techweek19.

The Machine Learning & AI Developers Conference submissions close 28 February. The Edmund Hillary Fellowship is now accepting applications.

Thinking of getting involved in Techweek19? Event submissions are now open. Head to the Techweek19 event portal to submit your event.

World changing ideas are born in New Zealand! Meet the UpStarters and learn more about New Zealand’s tech and innovation story. Watch videos and download the showcase booklet.

Welcome to our new members. We now have over 125 members, if your organisation hasn’t already – join now!

If you’re not on the New Zealand AI ecosystem map, please email us to be included in the next update.  Like what you’ve read? Receive your own copy, simply subscribe here.

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.