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AI Forum

Let’s fall in love


I am not alone in feeling somewhat unloved when it comes around to Valentine’s Day because AI hasn’t found its way into everyone’s hearts. Artificial Intelligence is so often misunderstood, neglected, sensationalised and stereotyped. When and how will AI find love and adoration from New Zealand?

Conversely, New Zealand receives so much love! As I sat in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) San Francisco office, engaged in workshops with AI experts from around the globe, my heart was thumping to the beat of the world’s love for New Zealand. It was incredible to hear such high regard for our democracy, society, Government and wellbeing framework. We are already world leaders and we have tangible opportunities to lead the world in our AI strategy, regulation, innovation and collaboration.

Regardless of my personal opinion of President Trump, I was encouraged by his party’s FY2021 budget, as it points to billions of dollars for AI research and development (R&D). This includes a record US$1 billion set aside for non-military AI research. The AI Initiative (2018) and the Quantum Initiative Act (2019) were designed to inform which future tech priorities were paramount, and have proven successful as this budget indicates. 

New Zealand Police are hoping that sparks will fly when the public engage with their first AI Officer, Ella. You can meet her in person at their Wellington headquarters. Ella was created with help from Soul Machines and you can check out their new soap opera When Roman Met Sam.

For several years, agriculture and AI have courted, but we are set to see formal engagements driving greater innovation and adoption following this week’s release of the finalised agritech Industry Transformation Plan. This is fantastic progress for the evolution of one of our most significant primary industries.

Microsoft is clearly in love with AI for Health, after announcing US$40 million for a five year program focussing on accelerating research to advance prevention, diagnosis, treatment of disease, and reduce health inequity by improving access for underserved populations. 

Trust is integral to any relationship, so to help build public trust in the development and use of AI in New Zealand, our Law, Society and Ethics working group has written a succinct set of guiding principles, Trustworthy AI in Aotearoa New Zealand (the AI Principles). We will shortly be publishing these high-level guidelines for anyone involved in designing, developing and using AI in New Zealand, accompanied by an event series, exploring what makes trustworthy AI. 

Now that our young ecosystem has matured somewhat, it’s time to understand in more detail what are the next set of major challenges we can help you to overcome. We will be in touch very shortly to ask for your thoughts.

Our next major conference, Aotearoa AI 2020, is a major focus for the forum and we would like our community to co-design the event to deliver on point, impactful, empowering and inspiring content. In the meantime, we will be running a variety of Connect Events to facilitate important discussion in our communities. If you would like to discuss a specific topic or have a subject you would like to see explored, please get in touch.

Can we show our country and planet more love and care? Definitely, which is why and the AI Forum want to dive deeper into AI for ecological wellbeing and environmental protection. Please contact me if you would like to participate in the research and creation of a new report.

Finally, I will be helping open more hearts to the benefits of open data on a discussion a panel at Statistics New Zealand’s biggest open data event of the year #Open Data, Open Potential.

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.


News and Events

In local news, Air New Zealand is trialling AI to reduce aircraft turnaround times. Soul Machines has introduced new digital employees, Mia (Madera Residential) and Ella (New Zealand Police). Last month, Soul Machines raised an additional $40m in funding.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working in partnership with Ngāi Tahu, tangata whenua for Auckland Island on Maukahuka Pest Free Auckland Island using algorithms to accurately recognise pests.

Meet the Tech Futures Lab team at their upcoming Virtual Open Labs on 19 and 26 February. Join FinTechNZ and BlockchainNZ on 26 February in Auckland and 27 February in Wellington. BioTechNZ meets on 28 February in Auckland.

Join AgriTechNZ and learn more about the new Industry Transformation Plan at free workshops on 3 March in Auckland, 9 March in Hamilton and 10 March in Lincoln. Also, register for MobileTECH Ag 2020 7-8 April in Rotorua.  

Register for MedCan 2020 on 19 March in Auckland. Join the Edmund Hilary Fellowship’s New Frontiers Summit on 11-13 October in Auckland.

The AI for Good Global Summit is 4-8 May in Geneva, Switzerland. The International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems is 9-13 May in Auckland.

Local tech companies are forecast to rapidly expand in 2020.  Meanwhile, transparency and trust present the biggest impacts to digital identity in 2020, read more. Learn how FinTech can help tackle climate change and digital literacy. 

Attend Future Government 2020 on 25 March in Wellington for more on serving New Zealand through a digital public service. Help inspire the next generation of STEM superstars with the Wonder Project’s 2020 Rocket Challenge.

Save the date for Digital Identity NZ’s local showcase on 10 March, RegTechNZ’s State of the Nation event on 11 March, both in Auckland. The IoT Alliance meets on 12 March in Wellington.

Applications for the 2020 National Fieldays Innovations Awards close 30 April. Entries for the 2020 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards close 28 February. Applications for The Spark Health Digital Innovation Programme also close 28 February.

The Technology, Mind and Society conference is 12-14 November in Denver, Colorado. Submissions for #APATech20 is 10 April.

Techweek2020 is now accepting event submissions. TW20 runs 18-24 May and this year’s theme is connecting our future. Techweek is a nationwide series of events, showcasing and celebrating our tech innovation.

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.