printer icon
Ben Reid

AI features strongly at Techweek, New Zealand’s Festival of Tech

Kia ora Readers,

Next week is the third iteration of the nationwide Techweek festival. New Zealand’s technology and innovation sectors are growing rapidly, and Techweek fosters that growth by providing the national ecosystem with a week-long opportunity for connection and cross-pollination, using an independent platform to amplify New Zealand’s unique and inspiring innovation stories to the world. There are hundreds of events again this year, including many focused on Artificial Intelligence. Make sure you get in amongst it next week!

The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council (PMBAC) chaired by Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon has produced a new report with McKinsey Global Insights,A Future That Works. This report aims to build on the body of New Zealand research, including the AI Forum’s 2018 publication Shaping a Future New Zealand. It estimates the potential impact of automation on economic outcomes in New Zealand, such as net job impacts, improvement in productivity and economic growth. It also explores what it will take, for both the private and public sectors to capture the opportunities from automation, while ensuring that the benefits are broadly shared. There is plenty of localised New Zealand data and analysis included, it’s well worth reading.

As mentioned in our last newsletter, we are currently coordinating a response from AI Forum members to the Productivity Commission’s Technology and The Future of Work issues paper. Submissions are due early June, so please check the AI Forum member Slack channel for details. (If you’re not on the Slack channel, please contact us). Related, the AI Forum’s working group on Growing the AI Talent Pool has published a call to action on AI skills: New Zealand Lags in AI Education.

I am constantly reminded how much AI and data science research is happening in New Zealand’s universities. This article from Victoria University of Wellington’s Prof Mengjie ZhangWhat can artificial intelligence learn from nature? from the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand reviews a branch of artificial intelligence called evolutionary computation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) have announced that registrations for NZD$49 million of funding for Aotearoa New Zealand Data Science research are now open, with a focus on four strategic multi-disciplinary data science research programmes inspired by real world problems. Registrations close 30 May.

On 2 May, I attended an excellent presentation from the global @BanKillerRobots campaign head Mary Wareham to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee. Here she is talking to RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan about why the New Zealand Government is called on to do more to combat Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems. Listen now.

Finally, I’m looking forward to attending The Festival of AI and Emerging Technology, CogX 2019 conference in London next month, the largest AI festival in the world, with an incredible array of speakers and events. As a member of the international Partnership on AI, we have a limited number of complimentary conference passes for our members, please contact us if you’re interested.

Ngā mihi nui

Ben Reid
Executive Director


Deloitte has published substantial global AI research in recent years and this week we welcome Deloitte to the AI Forum. Read insights from their newly published State of AI in Enterprise survey, Future in the balance? How countries are pursuing an AI advantage.

During Techweek19, PlantTech Research Institute begins its journey to harness AI, robotics and drone sectors to address challenges in New Zealand’s horticulture industry. Attend the official interactive launch on 22 May in Tauranga.


Do you work in Gisborne or Hamilton? Please sign up as ShadowTech 2019 mentor and inspire girls to consider tech careers. ShadowTech is also running in Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Attend Automation for Business on 23 May in Auckland. Discussion includes intelligent automation to streamline processes, increase productivity and improve profitability. Please email us for an AI Forum 15% discount code.

In local news, health insurer Southern Cross recruits digital humans and is facial recognition the future of payments? Meanwhile, cameras with gun detecting AI are to be installed in Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.

Attend the 2019 IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, 10–13 June in Wellington. View the conference programme and preview lectures, plenary sessions, tutorials and workshops here.

Google has announced the 20 recipients of the AI Impact Challenge grants. The selected projects include conservation, crisis response, economic opportunity, education, environmental protection, health and misinformation.

The European Commission High-Level Expert Group on AI has presented their ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI.

McKinsey also reports on Australia’s automation opportunity that could total AUD$4 trillion.

What are AI’s real world impacts on labour and the economy and can the promises of AI be realised? The Partnership on AI Labour and Economy (AILE) working group has published the AILE Case Study Compendium to explore the issue in depth.

In other news, the Government announced its plans to tackle digital exclusion with its Digital Inclusion Blueprint and Action Plan for 2019. The vision is that everyone in New Zealand has what they need to participate in, contribute to and benefit from a digital world.

Join EdTechNZ and TechWomen on 13 June in Wellington20 June in Auckland and 26 June in Christchurch to discuss how to achieve diversity in the tech sector.

Save the date for Identity Conference 2019 – Identity as taonga: now and in the future, 26–27 August in Wellington, exploring the concept of personal digital identity.

Techweek TV is back for 2019. Check the daily schedule here and save your favourites. Join AI Forum’s Ben Reid on 22 May for Techweek TV’s webcast, Real World AI in 2019 – practical insights from New Zealand businesses implementing Machine Learning solutions.

Applications for the Kiwi Fintech Accelerator close on 24 May. Entries for the 2019 AmCham-DHL Express Success and Innovation Awards close 31 May.

Have you joined the free online platform Scale-Up New Zealand? Learn more about Scale-Up here.

Applications for the Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grants are open until 31 August.

Please share our news with your team and invite them to subscribe here for their own free copy!

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.