The AI Forum has released an in-depth AI roadmap for New Zealand, titled "Towards Our Intelligent Future".
The key aim of the report is to kickstart an AI strategy for New Zealand by developing a framework for action. Anchoring the framework are the OECD’s five recommendations to governments around Trustworthy AI: facilitate investment, share data and knowledge, ensure an open policy environment for AI, support AI skills and talent, and cooperate across borders and sectors. The report applies the framework to health, transport, and conservation, highlighting the key insight that AI’s potential effects will affect nearly all Government portfolios.
What is AI?
The AI we have today is very different from the robot overlords we know from popular media. Intelligent machines are Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) which is still many years from being developed. AI in the real world today is not so multi-talented, and is trained to do a specific task. The function areas include process automation, making sense of data sets, understanding visual input, and observing conditions and planning next steps. Think chatbots and automated contracts, not sentient robots.
One Big Thing
The adoption of a national AI strategy will also help to encourage AI development by companies. Why does this matter? While initial impacts may be small, frontrunners will reap the economic benefits of AI and potentially double their returns by 2030. By contrast, late adopters will find it more difficult to benefit from the impact as opportunities pass. AI could bring over $50 billion per annum in benefits to New Zealand’s economy by 2035 simply through automating certain types of work and freeing up human ability to do the tasks that AI cannot yet do.
So how do New Zealand organisations stack up in adopting AI? According to PwC’s annual CEO Survey 2019, no New Zealand CEOs reported that AI was widely used in their organisations and none saw it as fundamental to their businesses. This was despite 84% believing that AI would transform their businesses in the next five years. The report refers to a number of AI maturity models to help organisations assess where they are at in their AI journey, noting that despite the current hype, many organisations are still only in the earliest awareness phases of maturity.
That’s why the report, while providing an excellent explanation of AI, ultimately emphasises its call to action. We need to consider AI as a factor in all our priority policy objectives and industry Development Plans for economic growth, but we also need to have flagship AI projects which we prioritise for investment through private-iwi-academic partnerships. These investments should be used to accelerate demand for foundational AI capabilities. The bottom line is that we should push to develop a strategic approach instead of waiting around for a formal national AI strategy.