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New Zealand to develop ethical AI strategy based on trust

The country is also exploring establishing a Centre for AI and looks to position itself as a society for the future

New Zealand is developing an approach to supporting the ethical adoption of AI, focusing on building an AI ecosystem on a foundation of trust, equity, and accessibility.

The government published a draft Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) on Friday to support the continued growth of the country’s technology sector, and now awaits feedback from industry and other parties to refine the action plan. It outlines key areas that need to be targeted, including 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. It states that AI must be a trusted technology, and willingness to use it should come from a clear understanding of the benefits and implications of the technology and confidence that safeguards are in place to mitigate risk. 

It also highlighted that the AI economy will drive investment into the country and position it as a society for the future. The plan underlined that AI will have an impact on the country’s workforce and productivity, so it needs to understand the implications of the technology on citizens and equip workers with the necessary digital skills to be a part of the AI economy.

It also aims 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 global AI. Lastly, the plan stated that the AI ecosystem will need a set of solid foundations, like proper governance arrangements or a data and digital infrastructure.

The New Zealand government is also considering whether to establish a Centre for AI to provide an independent and visible focal point to grow 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 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,” said David Clark, minister for the Digital Economy and Communications.

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“By providing a framework and forum for leadership, cooperation and collaboration, the processes we set up together over the next 12 months will give us a chance to embed digital technologies as a major contributor to our future transformed economy.”

The government is now seeking feedback from industry and other interested parties to refine the action plan, before creating a final ITP that will address short and long-term opportunities and challenges for the sector. The ministry of business, innovation, and employment invites interested parties to make a submission by 31 March, 2022.

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