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New Zealand to Set Ethical Artificial Intelligence Strategy

New Zealand is developing an approach to supporting the ethical adoption of AI — one that is focused on building an AI ecosystem on a foundation of trust, equity and accessibility right from the onset.

A crucial part of this approach is to involve key stakeholders in the planning. And that is exactly the reason why the government has designed the system so every New Zealander and every technology expert who matters can contribute.

The success of this ITP requires us to form a consensus view on the scope of our ambition and how this can be achieved with actions and initiatives that are sufficiently realistic to bring about meaningful change – both short and longer-term.

– David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications

Wellington published a draft that should jumpstart its pursuit of an ethical AI ecosystem:  the Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) which covers its overall digital transformation road map. Its goal is to support the continued growth of the country’s technology sector. More importantly, the government is allowing New Zealanders and those in the private and public sectors to contribute. Now, it awaits feedback from the industry and other parties to refine the action plan.

The ITP outlines key areas that need to be targeted. Some of these areas are:

  • increasing its digital technologies exporters
  • developing its digital skills and talent pipeline
  • creating a SaaS community
  • and building Māori participation in the tech sector.

The new AI strategy is part of this plan and is structured around five cornerstones including:

  • AI must be a trusted technology.
  • AI use should come from a clear understanding of the benefits and implications of the technology.
  • Safeguards are in place to mitigate AI risk.

Future gains when it comes to an ethical AI strategy has been cited. For instance, ITP also highlighted that the AI economy will drive investment into the country and position it as a society for the future. The draft plan underlined that AI will have an impact on the country’s workforce and productivity. It is imperative that policymakers understand the implications of the technology on citizens and equip workers with the necessary digital skills to be a part of the AI economy.

The initial plan further mentioned that the goal is to position New Zealand businesses as internationally recognised as developers of safe, innovative, and creative AI, and for the country to be a trusted and willing partner in the planet’s push for AI technology. To that end, the AI ecosystem will need a set of solid foundations (e.g., proper governance arrangements, digital infrastructure).

New Zealand is willing to pull all the stops to get its digital transformation going. Wellington is considering whether to establish a Centre for AI to provide an independent and visible focal point to grow an understanding of AI and other data-driven technologies. This would help domestic and international colleagues engage with each other and help them understand the complex nature of AI and the risks it poses.

The plan is getting needed feedback as we speak. The New Zealand government is seeking feedback not only from the industry but also from other interested parties to refine the action plan.

After every bit of feedback is sorted, the creation of a final ITP that will address short and long-term opportunities and challenges for the sector should follow. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) invite interested parties to make a submission by 31 March 2022, as reported on OpenGov Asia.

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