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Otago experts to work with Government on AI framework

07 May 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from the University of Otago have been invited to work with the Government to form an AI and predictive analytics framework. 

The invitation comes shortly after the Minister for Government Digital Services and Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Clare Curran, announced the Artificial Intelligence: Shaping a Future New Zealand report.

In the announcement, Curran supports the establishment of a framework, stating,  “An ethical framework will give people the tools to participate in conversations about AI and its implications in our society and economy.”

She adds, “As a first step and because of the importance of ethics and governance issues around AI, I will be formalising the government’s relationship with Otago University’s NZ Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies.”

Members of the University of Otago’s Artificial Intelligence and Law in New Zealand Project (AILNZP) proposed in April that an agency be established in New Zealand to oversee the use of predictive analytics by publicly funded bodies.

This could, for example, publish a complete list of the predictive tools used by Government departments, and other public institutions such as ACC.

Professors from the University of Otago welcome the invitation. “We welcome the opportunity to work with Government on an issue that has significance for a great many New Zealanders,” Associate Professor of Otago’s Faculty of Law, Colin Gavaghan, comments. 

“AI and algorithms offer great opportunities, but also some potential pitfalls.”

“Our new Centre for AI and Public Policy will offer a hub from which to examine this technology from a range of perspectives - technical, ethical, legal, social - with a view to maximising the benefits while minimising the risks.”

After subsequent discussions with central government and an agreement, the University of Otago is forming a new Centre for AI and Public Policy, to be headed Gavaghan and Professor James Maclaurin of the Department of Philosophy.

Alistair Knott, of Otago’s Department of Computer Science is also a founding member.

The Centre will draw on a number of research initiatives at the University of Otago that look at the social effects of AI, including the Centre for Law and Emerging Technologies, the Artificial Intelligence and Law in New Zealand Project and the AI and Society Research Group.

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