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New Zealand trials AI for cross-agency regulatory context

Tai is a 25 year old New Zealander with the ability to navigate his way through complex information across multiple government websites.

Moreover, he can provide answers to questions in the blink of an eye. Tai, however, is not an actual person but a digital assistant that is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

The past few months have seen the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI); along with Customs New Zealand, which is IRD’s Business Rules Centre; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE); and Datacom working together.

According to a recent report, they are trying to find out whether AI has the potential to make it easier for businesses to interact with government in a multi-agency context.

In order to develop the AI Proof of Concept, they agreed to focus on honey exporting since it requires businesses to navigate across two government agencies, the MPI and Customs.

These agencies then asked themselves how they can make this easier for business as they know that navigating complex exporting requirements across the two government agencies can be confusing, complicated and time consuming.

Business users from the apiculture and exporting community have tested the Proof of Concept after it was completed in early July.

Users have the ability to ask export questions in plain natural wording and receive clear responses, also in plain language, across the honey exporting domain.

The objective of the Proof of Concept is to find out if conversational AI works in a cross-agency regulatory context.

Moreover, it will check if businesses would be open to have a conversation with a “machine” to reduce their effort in searching for information to make decisions.

The AI Proof of Concept is being coordinated by the Better for Business programme of the Government.

Working across 10 government agencies, the programme champions New Zealand businesses as well as identifies and develops easier and smarter ways for business and government to interact.

Opportunities presented by the Better Rules initiative has further inspired the conception of Tai, which showcased “Human and Machine-consumable Rules” as a key component for the digital transformation of government.

The programme worked across several government agencies to explore the ideas and practice of turning legislation into machine-consumable ‘digital rules’.

This process found opportunities for government in machine consumable legislation to capture benefits from new technologies like AI.

Through both of these initiatives, it was learned that ultimately technology is only as good as the structure of the content.

By getting better at creating Human Consumable rules, there will be immense pay-back regardless of the machine that needs to consume it, thereby saving time, effort and money, and improved services to better deliver to people’s needs.

It is a perfect example of future-focused digital technologies enabling government service innovation for business customers.

It is a catalyst to improve the consistency and coordination between agencies and is an important step for the Government‘s future customer facing digital channels and service delivery.

By coordinating agencies around important business outcomes and innovating the service delivery models, the Government aims to make it easier and more seamless for businesses to deal with government.

Once Tai’s Proof of Concept testing period is complete, Better for Business and its 10 partner agencies will work together to agree on the role of AI in future multi-agency service delivery models.

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