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AI Forum

Trio of NZ business women leading AI in NZ

Kiwi business women are leading the drive of one of New Zealand’s most significant technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), into 2020.

The AI Forum of New Zealand has just appointed one of ANZ bank’s heads of technology, Megan Tapsell, as its chair, along with Simpson Grierson tech lawyer Louise Taylor as its deputy chair.

Emma Naji, a computer scientist with a 20-year tech focussed entrepreneurial career, recently took over from Ben Reid as the executive director of the AI Forum. 

Very few New Zealand businesses or Kiwi tech organisations have three women leading its governance and management, which in itself is a major milestone.  

Tapsell has family connections with the first Maori Speaker of the House, the late Sir Peter Tapsell.

She is a major advocate for the role of Maori in all aspects of New Zealand and previously sat as an advisory board member of the Maori health tech business Navilluso Medical, fronted by Tracy and Lance O’Sullivan, who was the 2014 New Zealander of the year.

“With the world in a constant state of change due to the rapid advancement of technology, it is important that our industry leaders also consider the ethical impacts on our people, both in our workplaces and our community,” Tapsell says.

The AI Forum’s new deputy chair Louise Taylor is a senior technology lawyer in the commercial group at Simpson Grierson. She specialises in new and emerging technologies and has spoken and written widely on AI, fog / cloud, IoT, drones, quantum computing and other tech trends.

AI Forum executive director Emma Naji says this female-led driving force bodes very well for the future of the AI Forum organisation, Taylor says.

“Their leadership reinforces the importance of AI for New Zealand’s future prosperity and the growing focus of how best to harness AI for the benefit of New Zealand, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are a key focus of our Intelligent Future Summit in April next year,” she says.

Tapsell and Naji acknowledged the tremendous efforts of the outgoing and inaugural executive director Ben Reid and chair Stu Christie, who stepped aside because of other business commitments. Both indicated their intent to step down a number of months ago to facilitate orderly succession.

Naji says the AI Forum has recently released a series of five research reports covering areas such as AI in financial services, agriculture and health. They have outlined issues stressing New Zealand urgently needs to focus more on achieving an AI-enabled future, particularly in relation to investment, research, skills and talent, ethics and regulation and trusted data.

“New Zealand needs to actively consider benefits from creating a world leading AI strategy, supporting innovation and business; research suggests that the financial and insurance sectors are a viable quick win for New Zealand,” Naji says.

AI Forum The AI Forum brings together New Zealand’s artificial intelligence community, working together to harness the power of AI technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive and thriving future New Zealand.