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Ben Reid

Including AI in the updated Government Digital Strategy


On Monday I participated in an all-of-government workshop facilitated by GCDO as part of the development of a new Government Digital Strategy to replace the current Government ICT Strategy which dates back to 2013.  Fundamentally, digital technology is transforming everyone’s expectations of how Government provides services to New Zealanders.  This is changing rapidly, try explaining a paper based form to a teenager!

The workshop explored a number of themes to build strong digital foundations for New Zealand, including:

  • open digital infrastructure
  • ethics and rights
  • uptake of transformational technologies (including AI)

The AI Forum is engaged in this process alongside Government agencies and other stakeholders to provide broad based, cross-sector inputfocused on realising the opportunities from new AI technologies, enabling better government services in future.

A couple of personal observations: (1) As with the recent CTO role definition, the scope of a Government Digital Strategy vs a National Digital Strategy needs further clarity. (2) The international technology landscape is changing so quickly, we need to consider moving from a four-plus year strategy refresh cycle to continuous scanning, planning and agile implementation.  If not a Ministry for the Future then a more permanent futures-scanning capability within Government which informs policy going forward.  

My favourite suggestion of the day was for the creation of a simple app where citizens can easily see all the data that Government holds on them across every ministry, department and agency.  Easy, right?

A number of Government agencies are innovating with data analytics and machine learning to improve service delivery.  Nic Blakely, DCE of AI Forum member Ministry of Social Development explained recently on RNZ how MSD are using predictive modeling to help some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable.

In case you missed it, Stuff’s Katie Kenny published a deeply researched interactive article, Data For Sale, looking at the increasingly complex and wide ranging issues surrounding personal data sovereignty, data marketplaces and data/AI ethics.  Quality journalism in 2018.

On Wednesday this week, I’m looking forward to speaking in a spotlight session on AI opportunities in Education at the annual CORE Education uLearn conference in Auckland, joining over 1500 of New Zealand’s teachers and educators.  Education is critically important to the AI conversation. Just last week, I spoke to Newshub about the importance of investing in new skills in the face of rapidly advancing work automation.

Finally,  added to my reading list this week, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order by AI luminary Dr Kai-Fu Lee.  Big themes that potentially affect us all.

Best regards
Ben Reid
Executive Director


Join us on 30 October in Dunedin for the AI Forum’s next Connect event.  We are looking forward to hearing from AI researchers and the Centre for AI and Public Policy, as well as meeting the southern AI community.

Join the AI Forum’s Ben Reid this week in Auckland at uLearn18 where he will discuss the opportunities and challenges of AI and their impact on education.

Join Prefer’s Bot Development Canvas Workshop on 19 October in Wellington and learn how to implement a chatbot for your business.  Attend Microsoft’s AI event, Future Now Conference 2018 on 25 October in Auckland.  Also 25 October, in Christchurch, attend ITP’s Towards an AI Enabled Future New Zealand.  

Attend the Auckland ICT Graduate School’s  Fundamentals of Machine Learning and AI on 15 November.   Also, the Fundamentals of Data Visualisation and Statistical Analysis on 19 November.  Save the date for the AI in Health Symposium, part of the HiNZ’s digital health conference, 21-23 November in Wellington.

AI Forum member AUT’s researchers have developed the world’s first AI model that predicts a person’s choices before they have even made up their mind!  Learn more here.  In other member news, meet  SpaceTime founder Alex Bartley Catt, featured in Idealog magazine.  Also a great read, Katie Kenny’s feature, Data for Sale: the value of our digital lives.  

According to the World Economic Forum’s new report, The Future of Jobs Report 2018, AI and robotics will create 58 million more jobs than they destroy by 2022.  Read more here.  In other international news, Chinese AI firm SenseTime wants the establishment of facial recognition standards for a healthier industry.  In this podcast, AI visionary Kai-Fu Lee discusses China’s techno-utilitarian approach – innovate first, fix bugs later.  Also, read more on the rise of humans in the fourth industrial revolution

A new local survey says Kiwis are okay about working alongside robots.  Plus, realistic examples of robots, including a beach cleaning robot created by Paraparaumu students.  A new degree being offered from 2019 in Wellington, will include AI and other emerging technologies.

ACC’s AI chatbot RFP closes tomorrow, 10 October.  Applications for the AI Initiative’s Challenge close on 12 October.  The open challenge will award $750,000 to projects addressing challenges at the intersection of AI and the news.

The 31st Australasian Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence  is 11-14 December in Wellington.  The AI Forum will be participating in a panel session on AI in Industry.  Join us and meet some of the region’s top AI researchers and technologists.

Attend Blockworks 2018, on Friday in Auckland.   Register for the New Zealand FinTech Summit on 29 November in Auckland.   Entries #TechRocketshipANZ close 23 November.   Register your internship listing with Summer of Tech now.  The Flux Accelerator is currently accepting applications.

Learn more about your 2019 research project, Towards Our Intelligent Future: New Zealand’s AI Roadmap.  For more information on how you can support this project, please contact

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.