March 5, 2021

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New Zealand framework for algorithms

The New Zealand Government recently published its Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand to guide the use of algorithms by the government’s public sector agencies.

The Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand reveals a commitment to ensuring New Zealanders have confidence in how government agencies use algorithms. The charter is one of many ways that government proves its transparency and accountability in the use of data.

The Charter emphasises that more complex algorithms can be used to support human decision-making, helping the Government to better understand New Zealand and New Zealanders.  It recognises that a principled approach is needed to realise this potential and mitigate the risk of unintended consequences, and as such, government agencies that sign onto the Charter commit to following its principles when using algorithms to help serve the people of New Zealand.

This Charter sets a strong foundation for guiding NZ GOVT agencies on how to implement algorithms in a manner that warrants trust, considering the key elements of Transparency, Partnership, People, Data, Privacy/Ethics/Human Rights as well as Human Oversight.

The Algorithm Charter commitments are built on 6 pillars:

Transparency

Maintain transparency by clearly explaining how decisions are informed by algorithms. This may include:

  • Plain English documentation of the algorithm,
  • Making information about the data and processes available (unless a lawful restriction prevents this),
  • Publishing information about how data are collected, secured and stored.

Partnership

Deliver clear public benefit through Treaty commitments by:

  • Embedding a Te Ao Māori perspective in the development and use of algorithms consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

People

Focus on people by:

  • Identifying and actively engaging with people, communities and groups who have an interest in algorithms, and consulting with those impacted by their use.

Data

Make sure data is fit for purpose by:

  • Understanding its limitations,
  • Identifying and managing bias.

Privacy, Ethics and Human Rights

Ensure that privacy, ethics and human rights are safeguarded by:

  • Regularly peer-reviewing algorithms to assess for unintended consequences and act on this information.

Human Oversight

Retain human oversight by:

  • Nominating a point of contact for public inquiries about algorithms,
  • Providing a channel for challenging or appealing of decisions informed by algorithms,
  • Clearly explaining the role of humans in decisions informed by algorithms.

AI New Zealand is an initiative to help organisations leverage Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and data to improve productivity, effectiveness and customer experiences with AI-powered solutions.

The use of AI has become a contentious topic in New Zealand in recent years. The AI Forum of New Zealand – representing organisations from across New Zealand’s artificial intelligence ecosystem – has published a set of principles designed to help build public trust in the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in New Zealand.

The Trustworthy AI in Aotearoa AI Principles document sets out five principles covering:

  1. fairness and justice
  2. reliability, security and privacy
  3. transparency
  4. human oversight and accountability
  5. well-being

The authors say they have drawn on common themes emerging from the growing body of published AI ethical principles.

New Zeland is very firm in its ambitions and aims to deploy AI in government and across the board. A strong champion of this is the AI Forum of New Zealand (AIFNZ).

The Artificial Intelligence Forum of New Zealand sets out to raise the level of awareness and capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in New Zealand. The rapid development of AI technologies presents major opportunities and challenges for the country: from creating world-leading AI businesses, nurturing a pool of talented AI engineers, applying AI technologies to the NZ Government, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries to holding a meaningful national debate on the broader implications for society, New Zealand needs to actively engage with AI now to secure the country’s future prosperity.

The Forum brings together citizens, business, academia and the Government connecting, promoting and advancing the AI ecosystem to help ensure a thriving future New Zealand enabled by technology.

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