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AI Forum

Silver linings signal our need for AI and Data transformation


When I speak with my family in the United Kingdom, I feel very fortunate to have experienced such a life changing pandemic from a country so willing to take decisive action and reduce potential harm. Now is the time to take a serious look at the silver linings of this experience and recognise how digital transformation saved us. We must take the evidence and cast it forward to recognise AI’s transformative role if we are to keep thriving in adversity. This includes investment into all aspects of AI and data in New Zealand.

As we envisage reconnection to the rest of the world and strong emotions surrounding border monitoring, it is crucial to consider the role AI and Digital Identity can play. It is clear that our current systems and processes require some new capabilities, smart technology, innovation and enablement. For this reason we have partnered with Digital Identity New Zealand for a joint webinar, between the AI Forum and Digital Identity New Zealand – Intelligent and Trustworthy Borders on 4 June 1:00pm-2:30pm. Please register to attend.

Meanwhile, we observe from a distance, India’s Police testing of ‘pandemic drones’ to monitor curfews and the distance between people during the day. Each AI-equipped drone can detect humans within a range of 150 metres to one kilometre, calculating the physical distance between individuals and alert police when people are too close.

Certainly, AI and Digital Identity play key roles in post-COVID-19 border protection but not to this extent, which is unacceptable in our highly valued democracy. Please join our experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced when applying technology to help build safer futures.

Our panellists are:

  • Robert Harrison, Chief Data Scientist, Joint Border Analytics Team, Customs, Ministry for Primary Industries and Immigration.
  • Carolina Gallegos, Senior Director Risk Services (Australia, NZ and South Pacific), Visa.
  • Russell Craig, National Technology Officer, Microsoft New Zealand.
  • Frith Tweedie, Head of Digital Law, EY Law New Zealand.

Techweek2020 has gone digital and we invite our members to participate. Design your own events, for example, interviews, webinars or panel discussions. Also, please participate in some of our planned events including:

 How can we build the New Zealand AI brand?

  • Trustworthy AI
  • AI and the environment
  • Aotearoa’s AI niches
  • AI and Māori
  • Getting into the AI workforce
  • Women in AI and data
  • Augmenting education with AI

Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in any of these AI specific event topics.

I am delighted to be joining two other New Zealanders as part of the OECD’s Network of Experts on AI (ONE.AI) and hope to further extend our international connections and pathways for knowledge and collaboration. I will be joining working group two: Implementation guidance focusing on values-based AI principles. This working group will help to detect challenges and identify and develop promising ideas and good practices for implementing the five values-based OECD AI principles (including inclusive growth, sustainable development and wellbeing; human centred values and fairness; transparency and explainability; robustness, security and safety; and accountability). These practices may include standards and certification programs; principles and codes of conduct; and governance frameworks. This work may also inform the development of a repository of non-governmental stakeholder initiatives.

As a strong believer that AI can play a significant role in reducing the harm pandemics like COVID-19 cause and assist better recovery; I was pleased to learn that the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab is funding research intends to advance AI’s transformative potential for society. The projects target the current public health and economic challenges and could signal new hope in how we evaluate and respond to risk, including:

  • returning to normal via targeted lockdowns, personalised treatments and mass testing.
  • finding better ways to treat Covid-19 patients on ventilators. 
  • leveraging electronic medical records to find a treatment for Covid-19. 
  • designing proteins to block SARS-CoV-2.

In case you missed it, myself and our Chair Megan Tapsell were some of those interviewed for RNZ’s Two Cents Worth podcast – Ready for the Robot Takeover.

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.


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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.