New Zealand’s business environment is enviably one of the best in the world for both local and foreign commercial actors. Despite its size, the productive country supports development in many sectors, and houses a skilled, multicultural population and thriving export economy.
New Zealand has stepped up to the challenge that many other governments also face: how to use technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve services for its citizens. The recently released ‘wellbeing budget,’ a courageous step in lifting the country’s mental health services, plays a big part in addressing this challenge.
At present, social welfare represents almost 25% of the country’s GDP. We explore how New Zealand is tackling complex social issues through the use of artificial intelligence, automation and analytics, and how the private sector can help.
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New Zealand’s social and wellbeing agenda
New Zealand made world headlines in 2018 with its objective to build a ‘wellbeing budget’, to be published in 2019. This is the first of its kind; a public spending plan that aims to achieve more than hard-nosed economic growth targets.
The New York Times labelled this budget “the next big move by a New Zealand government seen by progressives around the world as a beacon in increasingly populist times.”
Released in June this year, the budget’s crucial policy position is that financial prosperity should not be treated as the singular measure of success in an economy, or of quality of life in a nation. From an economic perspective, underdeveloped methods for crime prevention and treating mental health are affecting lives and contributing to significant public expenditure.
The budget offers a two-pronged approach in solving both an economic and social issue: how to improve the available resources – or lack thereof – for helping people when they need it, and reducing ongoing social and financial impacts of mental health, crime, and addiction.
The 5 key priorities of this budget aim to:
- Improve mental health
- Reduce child poverty
- Address inequalities experienced by indigenous groups
- Improve digital inclusion and education
- Implement sustainable and low-emission practices.
New Zealand’s policymakers, innovative thinkers and leadership understand that technology plays a crucial part in this wellbeing-focussed approach. Now, the country is considering how it could use modern technological advances to better understand their social terrain and address their wellbeing priorities. Many consider that one such enabler lies within AI.
Applying AI solutions
The New Zealand government and its departments are reaching out to experts to find innovative ways to approach a largely unprecedented marriage of technology and wellbeing at a national level.
Australian news site The Mandarin reports that some professionals in this space are engaging with ministers and public servants at all levels to “accelerate coordination, collaboration, manage risk, as well as respond to demand” for tech-based solutions to socioeconomic and wellbeing issues. Predominantly, this involves AI and data collection and analysis.
The country’s tax authority, Inland Revenue Department (IRD), is now making noise about an NZ$30 million investment into a ‘data lake’ to automate processes and decisions. A data lake empowers businesses to analyze raw data and turn it into insights without needing an IT expert to prepare and collect it. IRD plans to use this capability to improve auditing processes and tax campaigns.
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is employing AI to protect people and reduce long-term dependency on social benefits. Rapid text mining initiatives identified young people at risk of harming others and allow the department to offer targeted support services to them, preventing the victimization of thousands of people. In another approach, MSD built a data model to identify and analyze groups of people most at risk of long-term welfare dependency and provide targeted support services to reduce this need.
Integrated medical models
In the medical sector, data analysis enabled two New Zealand health agencies to build an integrated approach for rehabilitating citizens subscribed to medical benefits back into work-ready conditions. Reforms like this have been surfacing from technology-based initiatives since 2013, and New Zealand has an appetite to continue this progress.
Artificial intelligence is helping achieve what takes some governments years, even decades, to pull together: integrated, coordinated services to people from relevant agencies. Information gathered and analyzed from a number of relevant departments help assess individual and community needs far quicker than non-automated collaborations can achieve. People are spared the pain of contacting and connecting with different agencies themselves and can receive personalized support and service.
Use AI to improve systems
New Zealand’s wellbeing budget is driving a greater local need for automated, integrated technology solutions to complex social issues. Government departments are reaching out to the private sector and awarding contracts to leading analytics experts, and engaging with that expertise over the long term.
Small projects have the potential to snowball into larger, government-wide initiatives, as they play a part in demonstrating the benefits of data analysis, AI and automation. Businesses working in innovative technology spaces should look to identify valuable areas or case studies in which AI plays a role in improving services to communities, individuals, and a nation. Fundamentally, this budget seeks to gather and act on insights for social and economic benefit via the reform of traditional systems. New Zealand has recognized the value of AI in this process and welcomes new approaches to achieving greater socio-economic prosperity.
Contact us to get started
New Zealand’s open business environment and outreach for technological innovation in public sectors create a welcoming environment for foreign businesses. Though number 1 in the world for ease of doing business, New Zealand still poses some regulatory hoops that companies need to jump through to operate in the market.
At Biz Latin Hub, we can help you navigate the country’s market entry process and ensure you start off on the right track. Our team of professionals provides tailored support services for firms expanding into New Zealand. This includes incorporation, due diligence, accounting, and recruitment.
To learn more or seek a personalized quote, contact our team here.