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AI Forum

State of AI in New Zealand Report

For the first time, the State of AI in New Zealand report establishes a benchmark for ‘AI Maturity’ within Kiwi organisations and exposes the differences that separate organisations enjoying the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) from those lagging behind.  The report is based on findings from a nationwide survey conducted in May 2021. 

The report delivers unique insights into the latest AI strategies and trends, current perceptions of AI, uses, benefits and opportunities it delivers, challenges it presents, a leader’s role in laying the foundation for a rewarding AI agenda, and AI’s potential impact on New Zealand businesses, society and economy as a whole.

It outlines what we can learn from New Zealand businesses further advanced in AI Maturity and the steps organisations, and the government, need to take to truly ignite AI adoption as we look to create the AI economy in NZ.

AI Maturity Framework

The State of AI report adopts the AI Maturity Framework, asserting five primary dimensions that must be aligned to create and scale impact with AI:
(1) Strategy
(2) Data
(3) Technology
(4) People
(5) Governance

Each dimension is fundamental to AI’s success – an absence of headway in one will delay an organisation’s overall progress in AI, no matter the pace of other dimensions. These dimensions define an organisation’s AI maturity across five stages: Not Considering, Enquiring, Trialling, Skilled and Embedded.

Key Insights

Artificial Intelligence is projected to be the most significant technological advancement in a generation, offering unprecedented opportunities for productivity, innovation and our economy. However, the inaugural State of AI report uncovers a stark divide in AI Maturity within New Zealand – between those organisations where AI is ingrained and those that are still to adopt the technology.

Today, one in five New Zealand organisations is AI mature and only seven per cent of organisations engage in core practices that support widespread adoption of AI.  Just over one third of those surveyed are taking the first steps on their AI journey, but have yet to complete any projects, and most have only run ad hoc pilots or are applying AI in just a single business process.

Benefits vs Risks

AI is on the brink of a boom.  It promises to bolster financial gains across myriad sectors and there are big hopes that it will solve countless business and societal problems. However, the reality is that AI is neither a magic wand nor a new, smarter dashboard.  Rather, it is a new set of capabilities that produce enormous value, but that comes with its own unique challenges

At the highest level, New Zealand’s slow progress with AI reflects a failure to ‘rewire’ the organisation.  Often, AI initiatives face daunting cultural and organisational barriers relating to skills, mindset, behaviours and resources.  However, it is also clear that leaders who take steps to break down those barriers can effectively harness AI’s power to realise the many opportunities it presents.

The rewards are tangible for organisations with an ‘AI first’ principle – that apply an AI lens to any opportunity or problem to determine what part the technology has to play in a world where humans and machines working in harmony are stronger than those working apart.

Survey results show that New Zealand organisations that are trialling AI have also begun to realise the benefits.  They are likely to be outperforming rivals in matters of efficiency, improving existing products and services, enriching customer experience and creating differentiation.

Meanwhile, there are serious concerns over bias, transparency, accountability, ethics and appropriate government regulatory and funding support.

More than half of those surveyed believe that the biggest risk of AI to New Zealand businesses is that the technology will not be leveraged sufficiently.  Equally, as New Zealand begins to deploy more AI, survey respondents are mindful of avoiding any unintended consequences, while maximising the positive outcomes

Avoiding unintended consequences, while maximising the positive outcomes, requires New Zealand organisations to broaden their appreciation and understanding of the potential benefits and challenges when using AI, such as bias, transparency, accountability and ethics.

New Zealand’s Government also has a role to play – ensuring that regulation works in tandem with this technology-driven change, but doesn’t risk hindering innovation, and by providing appropriate funding in support.

An unexpected finding of the survey is that cost, capability and forming the right partnerships – rather than technology – present the biggest hurdles for less AI mature organisations. In addition, a lack of capability is an issue for all organisations, regardless of where they sit within the AI maturity framework.

Securing Opportunities and Mitigating Risks

AI is projected to be the most significant technological advancement in a generation, offering unprecedented opportunities for productivity, innovation and our economy. However, in New Zealand, a stark AI Maturity divide exists and as a nation we risk being left behind.

As a nation, we have the opportunity to claim our space at the forefront of AI innovation, if we are willing to embrace a number of changes to progress more organisations, more quickly, up the AI maturity scale.  To move up the AI Maturity scale, organisations need to shift their mindset when it comes to AI, more thoroughly educate executives, use a common language, empower technology leaders, and choose the right technology and partnerships. Such changes will enable more organisations to embark on more AI trials – and to realise this AI future, New Zealand needs a critical mass of organisations in the trialling stage.

Trials are crucial because AI ignition is a numbers game – successful projects increase rapidly as an organisation moves through the maturity curve.  The opportunity is ripe for New Zealand to create its own ‘AI ecosystem’ and ‘AI economy’.  At the centre of this new sector are those building the technology; orbiting it is its own local supply chain and its own infrastructure.

The State of AI in New Zealand report is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It was sponsored and produced by Qrious, New Zealand’s leading data, analytics, AI and data-powered customer engagement company, and in partnership with Spark, The AI Forum, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Leaven.

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.