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AI Forum

New Zealand Lags in AI Education

Growing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) talent pool in New Zealand is crucial to take full advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. NZTech’s Digital Skills for a Digital Nation report concluded that AI skills are required both in New Zealand and worldwide. There is a shortage of technical knowledge, as well as a lack of relevant soft skills, like problem solving and critical thinking.

Many other countries have noted this shortage and are subsequently taking action. The United Kingdom has announced over UKP £200 million (including UKP £115 million of government funding) to develop 16 Research and Innovation Centres for AI Doctoral Training, along with funding for 1,000 PhD students specialising in AI. The United States has promised USD $200 million to fund computer science and STEM education, including training STEM teachers. Smaller countries, are also investing in AI skills. For example, Finland has set an aspirational goal to train one percent of its population (approximately 54,000 people) in the fundamentals of AI through an online course.

By contrast, New Zealand has not developed a national program to develop AI education or announced any specific investment in AI skills. This is concerning because it creates significant flow-on effects for New Zealand’s AI industry and the wider economy. The current lack of AI talent and skills is the biggest barrier to New Zealand’s ability to productively use AI or leverage AI to help solve our biggest challenges. This problem and a plan to solve it, need to form part of New Zealand’s national AI strategy.

Existing plans for the digital technologies/hangarau matahiko curriculum in New Zealand schools could expose students to AI related concepts. The Government could also provide additional resourcing to better embed these ideas and related skills (like coding and mathematics) in the curriculum. This degree of change will require equivalent support for educators, including additional resources and professional development.

Written by Matt Bartlett, Matt Boyd, Louise Taylor, Mike Watts, Brendan McCane, who are all members of the AI Forum’s Working Group on Growing the AI Talent Pool. Learn more about our working groups and work programme.

To express your interest in joining our working group to help in ‘Growing the AI Talent Pool’, please submit a Working Group Expression of Interest. We are particularly interested in input from educators.

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.