Speech releasing the Digital Council's report 'Towards Trustworthy and Trusted Automated Decision Making in Aotearoa'

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E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karanga maha o te wa, tēnā koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tātou katoa.

Ki ngā mana whenua, ko Ngāi Tahu, ko Waitaha, ko Kāti Māmoe  anō nei aku mihi ki a koutou.

Nōku te hōnore kia haere mai ki te whakanuia tēnei huihuinga whakahirahira.

Nō reira, ngā manaakitanga ki runga i ā tātou, katoa.

Tēna koutou, tēna koutou, huri noa i te whare, tēnā rā tātou katoa.

Late last year, the Digital Council presented its research report Towards Trustworthy and Trusted Automated Decision-Making in Aotearoa.

This report was the key deliverable for the Council’s 2020 work programme.

Today, I want to formally acknowledge and welcome the Digital Council’s report on the increasingly significant area of automated decision-making, and support all seven recommendations in principle.

In its research, the Council went out to understand the views of a diverse range of New Zealanders. It is clear from their research that people see both strengths and weaknesses with automated decision-making processes.

The report includes rich and valuable insights about New Zealanders’ concerns relating to automated decision-making.

Without wishing to steal the Council’s thunder, I’d like to touch on just a couple of key insights from the research.

On the plus side, people the Council spoke with were fairly comfortable with algorithms when they were used to carry out simple or low-risk tasks, where they act as an ‘assistant’ to help people get work done.

On the other hand, when algorithms are used to inform complex decisions that have major impacts on people’s lives, they are looking for a ‘human approach’ that incorporates empathy, discretion, fairness and an understanding of cultural nuance.

Another key insight is that decision-makers need to first understand the needs of people and communities before deciding that automated decision-making tools are the right solution.

Interestingly, neither of these insights are about algorithms or technology.  They point towards a concern to retain human-centeredness in the design and use of automated decision-making.

The Council’s report presents a compelling case for the need to foster trust in the way that we use technology.

So there is a lot we need to take on board as we move towards the use of automated decision-making.

We need to provide New Zealanders with greater assurances and protections, and we also need to support government and businesses to build robust practice and to come together as a community that holds itself to high standards.

This report provides a really valuable contribution to the discussions on data, digital, and technology that we’re having across government, with the business community, and the public discussion we hope to have.

In my view, this report is asking the right questions and there is universal applicability across many sectors within New Zealand in exploring what levels of trust are needed to truly harness the societal and economic benefits of digital and data-driven innovation.

We have many of the right foundations in place to help achieve the desired shift.

For many of the recommendations, I am pleased to say there is a strong foundation of work to build on. Other recommendations would require a shift in approach and new investment.

Best practice guidance helps to direct the approach to ethics and trust.

For example, Stats NZ have developed frameworks like Ngā Tikanga Paihere to guide analysts to use data in a way that is consistent with Māori tikanga principles.

This framework is being actively used to assess whether researchers can access data held in Stats’ Integrated Data Infrastructure.

Similarly, 26 government agencies have signed the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand, which binds those agencies to open and transparent practices when developing automated decision-making techniques.

Other agencies have also developed guidance, including MSD’s Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework, and the Social Wellbeing Agency’s Data Protection and Use Policy.

But we need to do more. I see opportunities for this research report to inform my naked ambition of the digital economy.

We need to grow New Zealand as a world-leading digital nation – diversifying our economy towards higher value, sustainable, low-carbon production.

A shift to weightless products can build a strong strategic advantage for us as a nation.

However, this can’t be achieved without building trust in the way we use and share data.

Data is now seen as the world’s most valuable asset – and I want to harness the value data can provide in growing our tech sector and drive innovation to benefit New Zealand, in a way that meets the expectations of New Zealanders.

I have some important strategic work in development. The first piece is a Digital Strategy for Aotearoa.

The world we live in is becoming more and more digital by the day.

There is a real need to ensure New Zealand can leverage the economic and social advantages of new and innovative technology while actively managing the associated risks.

A Digital Strategy for Aotearoa will ensure that we have a cohesive plan to confidently address the key challenges of inclusion (Mahi Tahi) and trust (Mahi Tika), while supporting the growth and expansion (Mahi Ake) of technology for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

I’ve asked my officials to further explore which recommendations may help in delivering to my goals for this strategy and I hope to work closely with the Digital Council and industry groups, as well as connecting with key digital and data related forums.

I’m also working to strengthen the pathways which support Māori aspirations for data and digital.

This includes work to support a Māori data governance model, which was co-designed last year as part of the Mana Ōrite Work Programme.

I’m keen that we lead by example in this area.

This specifically speaks to the report’s recommendations to develop best practice and to increase awareness and capability across public sector leadership.

We’ve got some foundational work to do first, and I’ve commissioned the Chief Data Steward to refresh the government’s Data Strategy and Roadmap, and the Chief Digital Officer to support digital transformation across the public sector through the Strategy for a Digital Public Service.

These strategies can be used to bring cohesion and oversight to ADM work across the public sector through their focus on fostering trust and building capability.

I’ve also established a Digital Ministers Group to facilitate an agreed direction and identify opportunities for collaboration across portfolios.

I’ve recently commissioned some early scoping on the development of an AI Strategy too.

It is important that any strategic work in this area considers how best to address data security and ethical concerns, while also improving understanding of the value to be delivered and the possible uses of data as a significant asset.

The Council’s report will provide a valuable input into which activities should be prioritized within a strategy.

My officials are working with the AI Forum on work to scope a potential strategy, and I’ve asked them to bring the Digital Council into these discussions.

I consider that we have an ambitious work programme ahead and we will need to balance priorities as we go.

However, we are well positioned to foster the trust environment needed to accelerate some leading and innovative digital work, while protecting the rights of New Zealanders when it comes to how decisions are made using their data.

I would like to thank the Digital Council for their work and insights, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Council on these topical issues.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.