Starting the year with bullish confidence

Weekly update | 2021-03-30 | By: Digital Council for Aotearoa
2021 with a red bull jumping from the zero. Happy New Year displayed underneath.

A belated kia hari te tau hau, happy new year. And also, chúc mừng năm mới, happy Lunar new year from the Digital Council for Aotearoa. This year being the Lunar year of the buffalo/ox, we’re going to start the year with bullish confidence! We are looking forward to seeing some action around designing, building and using automated decision-making (ADM) systems that do good, not harm. And we want to see Aotearoa grow its digital inclusion at a holistic and systemic level.

Design and build automated decision-making systems that do no harm

At the end of last year we provided a draft report to the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications about trust and trustworthiness in automated decision-making. This included some recommendations. Agencies are doing a stock take of what might be happening across government. We’ll soon release our report and start some national discussions about what our research has found, what our recommendations are, and what might already be in the pipeline to make sure automated decision-making is used in ways that are appropriate, reliable and accurate, mitigate against negative bias, and are safe, just and effective. 

In the meantime, visit our interim report on our website and familiarise yourself with the discoveries along the way.

Grow Aotearoa's digital inclusion

Our work programme theme for this year is digital inclusion. We believe that all individuals, whānau, communities, businesses and organisations should be able to access and use digital tools to participate in, benefit from, and contribute to our world. This is an important extension of our first year’s focus on Trust. Lack of trust and causing harm also exclude people from the benefits technology offers us.

Digital inclusion is a crowded and busy space, as we have discovered. There are innumerable activities and initiatives across the government, community, private and philanthropic sectors. 

What strikes us is that there is no helicopter view of the cumulative, sustainable, collective impact and benefit of these activities. Are they contributing to real, sustainable, collective systems change?

We don’t have an answer for that question. And it has meant some rigorous discussions at our Council meetings! Taking a holistic view and taking stock of what’s already happening in this space is at the centre of our conversations as we work out where it's best to put our efforts. If you have thoughts on this to share with us, please do get in touch.

Harness collective effort for a common vision

In the meantime, over the summer period, our individual Digital Council members have also been busy continuing to make the world better in their own ways. It is through collective effort that technology is in service to our learning, growing, connecting and wellbeing.

Nikora Ngaropo and his team kicked the year off planning for more Kanorau Digital digital literacy programmes (COVID levels permitting) for senior citizens and those unfamiliar with technology. He’s also busy with his team setting up an entity named Toro on the East Coast, an education house for animation.    

Term one is always a frenetic time for Kendall Flutey, getting schools on board with Banqer's financial literacy social enterprise. Kendall’s honeymoon is over! She was back at work within days of her wedding, keen to make sure more kids started the term learning to be curious, creative and confident with money. 

Roger Dennis went off the digital trail (or did he?) for a while as he cycled, ran and kayaked 243km from one side of Aotearoa to the other in the Coast to Coast adventure race. Did he take a leaf from Kendall’s book and go back to work the day after? Yes, he was back at work, advising Boards and leaderships teams on significant global trends, what this means for their sector and how to respond.

Rachel Kelly started the year in a full sprint. She continued to lead operations, automation and HX for a rapidly growing data-driven health hub in the Waikato, at the same time as working with her business partner to kick start a global biodata project for their new biotechnology startup.

The Lunar new year is an important family time for Mitchell Pham. Family seems much further away this year with travel restrictions. Instead of visits, February included calls to his parents and relatives in Viet Nam and other parts of the world. Mitchell has been busy between alert levels with meetings with the Minister and establishing relationships with government agency chief executives in anticipation of the release of the Digital Council’s report on trust and trustworthiness in automated decision-making.

The main thing on Colin Gavaghan’s agenda this year has been artificial intelligence and law. His team has just published a book that’s worth a read: “A Citizen's Guide to AI” (MIT Press). They will likely produce their second major report soon.

There is a growing demand for research insights into the role of public narratives in building support for the system changes we need for all people and the planet to thrive. So Marianne Elliott started the year by hiring and onboarding two new team members at The Workshop to grow this mahi.


A Zoom screen with Mitchell Pham (middle lower row) and four others presenting at the ABAC symposium
  • Mitchell Pham (bottom row, centre) was part of a panel discussion looking at the digital transformation of micro small and medium sized enterprises at the APEC Business Advisory Symposium. 
  • We had our first town hall of the year on 17th March. This was an online forum for young people and those who work with them and for them to talk about their experiences, hopes and challenges in the digital space. We'll be sharing the insights from that town hall on our website. 
  • We are working through the final round of feedback on our briefing on e-Commerce and digital marketplaces. So watch this space.
  • We have had our first three Council meetings for the year, with discussions about how we support the government to take action on trust and trustworthiness in automated decision-making, and defining our digital inclusion work programme for this year.
  • Mitchell Pham started his monthly meetings with Hon Dr David Clark in February.
  • Mitchell Pham also met with LINZ and the Ministry of Education.