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Ben Reid

Three Priorities to Accelerate an AI Strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand

This week I bring you more AI news from around the world and outline priorities to increase momentum towards Aotearoa New Zealand’s AI strategy.
Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS)
Matt Bartlett of New Zealand law firm and AI Forum member Simpson Grierson has written a comprehensive update on the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) debate: The AI Arms Race In 2019. “We cannot waste time pretending Pandora’s Box hasn’t already been opened”, says Matt when it comes to Killer Robots ambitions for a wholesale ban on LAWS are facing compromise in favour of a more incrementalist regulation on how states deploy them. Meanwhile, in the United States, Kiwi Mary Wareham continues her work in this field for Human Rights Watch, recently publishing a poll that more than three in five people in 26 countries oppose the development of LAWS. Last year, the AI Forum joined the list of international signatories whose key premise is not supporting the development, manufacture, trade or use of lethal autonomous weapons. We also have the opportunity to provide input to the New Zealand Government Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Unit. If you would like to contribute, please contact me.
Australian AI
At the end of this week I will be in Canberra at the International Dimensions of Artificial Intelligence conference, discussing how public policy, research and industry are approaching opportunities and risks of AI in an international context. I will present the work we have done to establish the AI Forum in New Zealand, connect the AI ecosystem here and build capability and knowledge.
This event is co-hosted by the recently launched 3A Institute in Australia and co-founded by the Australian National University and CSIRO’s Data61. Inspired by Silicon Valley style rapid and iterative prototyping, the 3Ai team is developing a new curriculum of postgraduate courses for applied data science and AI. I’m looking forward to learning more and how we may potentially collaborate.
Even More Global AI Superpowers…
The AI Superpowers meme continues to do the rounds. Here’s the latest:

Aotearoa New Zealand’s AI Strategy and Action Plan

Meanwhile closer to home, last week I penned a post Three priorities to accelerate an AI Strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. In summary:

  1. WHAT: Clear line-of-sight from New Zealand’s biggest policy challenges to AI solutions.
  2. WHEN: An informed sense of urgency to invest now.
  3. HOW: A concise, actionable AI strategy for New Zealand.

On Thursday, I’m meeting with Minister of Government Digital Services, Hon. Megan Woods, to provide an update on the AI Forum’s work programme for 2019 and learn more about progress on the Government’s AI Action Plan which was announced in May last year. The AI Forum has great engagement right across the public sector, with AI seen as an enabler for better service delivery and more informed decision making. So, I’m keen to discuss what we can do to unlock this potential and perhaps also align AI investments with the forthcoming Wellbeing Budget priorities.

Last week, we held our first joint AI Forum and FinTechNZ event in Wellington. Thank you to our speakers and panelists Andy Dharmani, Sam Daish, Russell Craig, Ernestynne Walsh and Michael Lovegrove. A wide ranging discussion which highlighted the potential from constant focusing on automating small operational tasks. Huge thanks to Xero for supporting the event and I look forward to seeing you as the series continues on  21 February in Auckland and 27 February in Christchurch. Also don’t forget to book your ticket for next month’s AI-DAY!

Our next AI Forum Working Group Summit is on 27 March in Auckland. If you would like to join a working group, please contact us. Working groups are open to AI Forum members, so if you are unsure of your membership status, please check or join now. You can also read more about our detailed work programme here.

Finally, from last year, here’s a fun application of machine vision and robotics! #WheresWally Thanks to Sheralee MacDonald of AI Forum member ChristchurchNZ for spotting this.

Ben Reid
Executive Director


Create connections in the AI and FinTech ecosystems. Join us on Thursday in Auckland and 27 February in Christchurch. Free for AI Forum members.

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.

Attend the  #NZAerospaceChallenge 2019 launch on 8 March in Christchurch. The annual Great AI debate is 9 May in Auckland, tickets available soon.

Early bird tickets for MobileTECH 2019 are available until Friday. AI Forum’s Ben Reid is presenting at the event on the rise of AI in the primary sector, 3-4 April in Rotorua.

In local news, the AI Arms Race in 2019, why activism is failing the cause. Read this article by AI Forum member Simpson Grierson’s Matt Bartlett.

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

Robotic process automation revisited – what’s really going on? Read this article by AI Forum members, University of Auckland’s Dr Ilan Oshri and Georgia Moore.

While tech can streamline customer service, when it goes wrong, the customer experience can go seriously awry. Learn how AI is threatening customer experiences.

Missed last month’s Hack Aotearoa – AI in Healthcare? Watch the keynote presentations and check out the workshop content.

The United Kingdom’s festival of data innovation, DataFest19 is 11-22 March. Stateside, Amazon is hosting re:MARS 2019 on 4-7 June in Las Vegas, USA.

Applications are open for the Partnership on AI Fellowship Program. Everything you need to know is here. ICYMI here’s a review from the second Partnership on AI’s partners meeting.

The Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) is calling for applications to participate in research on AI for Social Good, a United Nations ESCAP-APRU-Google collaboration. Please email for more information.

Consultation on the Copyright Act Review is open until 5 April. Join the public workshops on 21 or 22 February in Auckland or 1 March in Wellington and have your say.

Register for the New Zealand Digital Skills Hui on 27 March in Wellington. The focus is on driving policy, programmes and investment. Read more.

The Machine Learning & AI Developers Conference submissions close 28 February. Lightning Lab Tourism and the Edmund Hillary Fellowship are now accepting applications.

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

Entries for the 2019 Hi-Tech Awards close 4 March. Finalists will be announced on 27 March and winners announced during Techweek19 on 24 May in Auckland.

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.