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The AI Forum helps NZ pave the way with AI sustainability practices

By Mitchell Hageman
Thu 12 May 2022

Non-profit organisation The AI Forum is helping Kiwis learn about addressing climate change issues through the use of AI technology.

Taking knowledge from their recent AI for the environment report, which will be released at TechWeek2022, the organisation has focused on five key environmental outcomes for Aotearoa where AI can deliver meaningful solutions from both modern science and matauranga Maori perspectives.

These outcomes revolve around:

  • Preserving and bolstering biodiversity, including protection of native plants, animals and ecosystems in many land, freshwater and marine environments
  • Understanding the impacts of changing land use, including changes to vegetation across the country and the use of land in urban areas.
  • Reducing pollution from activities, including substances or kinds of energy (noise, light, heat) that are harmful to the environment.
  • Protecting freshwater and marine resources, including addressing overfishing issues and the taking of water from waterways for various purposes.
  • Climate change mitigation, including reducing greenhouse emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change for Aotearoa.

The organisation says that while it’s encouraging that results of a recent survey revealed one in five enterprises are using AI effectively in New Zealand, it was still concerning that only 7% are engaging in core practices supporting widespread AI adoption and 17% are not considering AI at all.

“The majority of Kiwi companies are still in initial trial stages with just over one third taking their first steps in building AI capability,” says The AI Forum NZ executive director Madeline Newman.

“Most of these have run ad hoc pilots or applied AI to a single business process, which is a good cost effective start in understanding how and where to make best use of AI in business.”

The AI forum gives Kiwi enterprises and innovators the chance to learn about fundamental research and receive expert advice on implementing sustainable AI practices, says Newman.

“The AI Forum is a rich source of expertise and advice for organisations thinking about their AI journey and our AI for the environment report is an example of that in action.”

A step forward in the right direction can be seen through innovations at TAIAO, a University of Waikato led-programme. Here, researchers are advancing state-of-the-art machine learning methods tailored to deal with large scale New Zealand environmental data.

Newman says there will be further opportunities to learn about AI and sustainability in the future. The organisation has a variety of new projects and research in the works, which Newman says will help promote New Zealand as a leader in the field.

“We have exceptional expertise in AI and environmental science in New Zealand. Our report, which will be launched at TechWeek22, and the follow-on work we are planning, shows Aotearoa leading the way in both thought leadership and action.”

The AI Forum is part of the NZTech Alliance and is a not for profit working with the government on developing a national strategy for New Zealand.

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