June 4, 2019

#HGMinspire Conference: Data for the Good of NZ

Thanks to all of you who joined us for our annual #HGMinspire conference: Data for the Good of NZ.

We had a fantastic afternoon at Generator @ GridAKL talking about how data can benefit New Zealand with a range of experts across the private, public and non-profit sectors.Following on from last year's discussion about what technology can offer New Zealand businesses and public sector agencies, we asked our speakers and panelists to think about how data-focused initiatives can enable businesses and agencies to deliver better services for the good of all New Zealanders.

We heard some fascinating insights from our speakers and panelists, all of whom have experienced first-hand the benefits (and challenges!) of incorporating data into their business models, service offerings and ethos.

Some key takeaways from the afternoon were:

Data tells stories

The insights we all can gain from data can allow us to make meaningful business and policy decisions. Big data can give us the ability to make generalisations about our population and deliver services on a mass scale. However, data can also help us to identify the people, and their 'stories', who would otherwise be mere statistics. Data can facilitate good decisions at a macro-level, and provide the granularity to determine individual need and enable delivery of individualised services to meet those needs.

Data is not perfect

Our speakers and panellists agreed that data is not 'black and white' and it's important for businesses and agencies to cast a human eye over the data they collect. While data should inform our actions, our decisions and actions should be driven by our own critical thinking.

Data literacy is important.

To get the most out of the data available to us, we need to teach everyone how to access and understand this data. Encouraging engagement with data can also help to bridge the digital divide and empower people to assert their rights as data subjects. This is today's challenge to overcome, much like addressing literacy and numeracy was decades ago.

We should invest in collecting good data to make good decisions for the good of New Zealand.

Both the private and public sectors should think about both the social and financial returns from investing in quality data - these returns are not mutually exclusive.

New Zealand is a land of data opportunities.

We have freely available public data infrastructure that is unparalleled in the developed world and should use the resources available to us to extract the maximum value from our data. The next step in New Zealand's data evolution is understanding how to motivate all people and sectors to make data-driven decisions.

Our speakers and panelists

Lillian Grace and Ngapera Riley (CEO and Deputy CEO, Figure.NZ)

Figure.NZ is on a mission to get Aotearoa using data to thrive. Figure.NZ processes and public datasets into easily accessible formats to tell stories about, and for, New Zealanders.

Lillian and Ngapera spoke about the changes they are seeing in New Zealanders' interactions with, and expectations around, data today. They discussed the challenges processing data not collected for today's purposes, and the ways in which good data can help our government and businesses to engage with New Zealand's diverse communities.

Lillian and Ngapera also emphasised the importance of teaching New Zealanders how to understand data, which they see as the next phase in an empowered data-driven society.

Panel discussion: Nicole Buisson (Small Business Director, Xero), Kristen Lunman (GM Hatch, Kiwi Wealth), Cate Slater (Director of Content, TVNZ) and Andrew Cushen (Outreach and Engagement Director, InternetNZ)

Our panelists came from a diverse range of backgrounds and spoke to us about the ways in which their organisations are using data for the betterment of New Zealand.

We had great audience engagement with the panel, which led to some thought-provoking discussions about:

  • The impact of diversity on data: data shows diverse organisations generally thrive.
  • The intersection of data and AI: there is a risk solely using AI to process data can lead to worse decisions unless human critical thinking is engaged.
  • When and how to commercialise data: data is now being used more to create value-add products rather than as a standalone commodity or market.
  • The dangers of using AI and data to deliver increasingly personalised services: do we have a 'fake news' risk, and will algorithms conflate our confirmation bias and the internet echo chamber?
  • The future of data in New Zealand: we are at cross-roads and we must each make a choice about use of our personal data to effect responsible change.
Sir Bill English

Sir Bill English was a longstanding politician and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who retired from politics in March 2018. During his time in the public sector Sir Bill focused on data driven public sector reform and led the Social Investment policy innovation for large scale social services. He oversaw significant investment in digitalising government and improving customer experience of public services.

Sir Bill spoke about his experience in both the public and private sectors, and the similarities and differences in how these sectors approach data. He emphasised the importance of understanding your purpose when collecting, processing and leveraging data, as well as the benefits of taking an investment approach to data-driven social policy.

Sir Bill provided some insightful comments on the ways data can enable public agencies can take a 'power of one' approach to delivery of targeted services to individuals who might otherwise be ignored. He emphasised the benefits of using data to focus on your 'customer', and that the public sector could learn from private sector by using data in decision feedback loops in service delivery.

Sir Bill encouraged those in the room to take advantage of the data available to them and use their business skills to provide data-driven solutions for the benefit of New Zealand.



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