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AI Forum

Building better AI in Aotearoa

The Aotearoa AI Summit 2021 played an important role in the early development of our National AI Strategy, by channelling insightful industry engagement. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies can be harnessed to help address some of our biggest challenges and opportunities.

“Aotearoa New Zealand has an opportunity to create AI that not only solves big problems at home, but that can also be seen as technology that is good for the world,” says AI Forum executive director Emma Naji.

“We can learn a lot from other nations in how to leverage these technologies such as AI, but with limited funding and resources New Zealand has to be smarter and well aligned to get the best impact, so a national strategy or plan is critical,” says AI Forum executive director Emma Naji.

The future of AI in Aotearoa will be shaped by collaboration across academia, Government and industry.  This includes the Government’s recent work on developing a National AI Strategy with a key focus on trust and transparency.  This is essential to achieve public confidence in the use of algorithms by Government agencies.

Hon. Minister David Clark, the Minster of Digital Economy and Communications, and the Minister of Statistics opened the Summit and introduced the National AI Strategy

An AI strategy will allow New Zealand to agree what is most important to us, provide a coordinated approach to the adoption and use of AI in our country, and showcase our own New Zealand brand on the international AI landscape.

“Through this Strategy, New Zealand will be able to embrace the potential of emerging digital technologies such as AI, in order to drive economic growth for the benefit of all New Zealanders,” says Minister Clark.

The proposed cornerstones of the strategy include;

–          Uniquely New Zealand

–          Human centred and trusted AI

–          Investment in AI economy

–          Preparing the workforce

–          Our place in the world

–          All supported by enabling foundations.

Learn more about the strategy and what it aims to achieve.

“By working together on developing a strategy we will ensure New Zealand can harness economic and social opportunities from this transformative technology, while mitigating any potential risks,” says Minister Clark,

The Government is committed to leading the adoption of ethical and safe AI that enhances our economy, serves the public good and further develops our international reputation, he said.

Through the creation and activation of our strategy we can ensure what is good for Aotearoa, will also be good for the world.

What’s next?  The industry engagement at the summit, provided the first opportunity to be involved and help steer our national strategy.  Feedback will be incorporated into a draft strategy and available for further consultation.  The National AI Strategy is a workstream of the Digital Technology Industry Transformation Plan (ITP).  Learn more here.  

Meanwhile, keynote speakers focused on identifying the best ways for AI technology to help create a more socially and economically prosperous New Zealand.  View the full programme here.

Microsoft’s principal software engineer lead, Jennifer Marsman joined the summit to share how Microsoft responded to COVID-19 with cognitive search.  She discussed the use of machine learning to mine unstructured research papers and better understand the disease.   

Soul Machines founder Greg Cross revealed insights on the pace of global change driven by AI.  In 2019, we were considering the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) but by 2020, COVID-19 saw us enter the Digital-Now-Era, he said. 

Overnight, many sectors, including education and health were digitally transformed. What happens next and are we even ready for a seamless digital world as we move toward 2030, he asked.  Greg challenged delegates to seize the opportunity, compete and grow for the greater good.

Further roundtable discussions highlighted lessons that could be learnt from other countries’ approaches to AI, how to enable AI-driven use cases in organisations, the role of AI in enhancing sustainability, developing local research partnerships, data ecosystems and considerations for locally tailored AI.

Google AI’s product manager Julie Cattiau discussed AI’s application to bioacoustics and accessibility to enable better communication.  The Project Euphonia team is using AI to improve computers’ abilities to understand diverse speech patterns.  This helps people with speech disabilities to communicate with others using speech recognition.  Julie also shared how songs and machine learning are helping protect humpback whales

During breaks, delegates networked and explored the Startup Alley, showcasing key local startups.  The Aotearoa AI Summit attracted a diverse range of AI scientists, policy makers and tech entrepreneurs.  

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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.