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NZ government announces digital council

The government has announced the launch of a Digital Council, which will advise the government on how to take advantage of the benefits of digital and data-driven technologies.

The Digital Council will be an independent group that functions as a bridge and connector between the government, the technology industry, and communities across New Zealand, the government has said.

According to media reports, the Digital Council is headed by Mitchell Pham, chief sales and marketing officer of Augen Software.

The group includes six other members who were chosen based on their technical expertise and contributions to the New Zealand community.

The Minister for Government Digital Services, Kris Faafoi, stated that the government has brought together an impressive mix of people who can help navigate the fast-moving digital and data landscape through a specific New Zealand focus.

Kris Faafoi and the Minister of Statistics, James Shaw, created the group.

He noted that the aim is to understand the impact of technological change from a uniquely New Zealand perspective, including te ao Maori (the Maori world).

The council will also help identify gaps in accessing and using technology, how it can benefit societies and the economy, assist the country’s role in the Pacific, and help overcome the distance from major trading markets.

The council will use members’ expertise and perspectives from communities across the country. It will also learn from national and international experts to develop advice and provide recommendations for government consideration.

The council takes over from the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group (DEDIMAG). The group concluded its work program at the end of last year. The DEDIMAG was set up to explore a more industry-focused range of issues. Whereas, the Digital Council is expected to help the government explore the wider impacts of technology on society.

The focus areas of the Digital Council will cover:

  • Digital inclusion
  • Nurturing digital trust and confidence
  • Balancing data use and accessibility with safeguarding and privacy
  • Government service innovation and digital development
  • Enhancing the positive use of data to realise social benefits
  • The role of technology in fostering greater social inclusion and community resilience
  • The impact of specific technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms, on aspects of New Zealand society

The group will help the government understand how to maximise the benefits for society from access and inclusion in digital technologies.

The council will provide a detailed work program with deadlines, milestones, and success measures by 31 March.

A news report noted that the AI Forum of New Zealand supported the move. It stated that the council would allow the government to leverage AI technology, across the New Zealand tech ecosystem.

AI will have a significant positive impact, not only on New Zealand’s trade and commerce but on the fundamental ways that citizens live and work. It is vital that the government takes every opportunity to shape and secure the future as early as possible, the AI Forum of New Zealand executive director, Emma Naji, said.

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