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European Commission-Funded EPIC Project Visits New Zealand’s Major Cities in Support of AI, Data and Consumer Empowerment Focused Event Series

The four events highlighted lessons learned from Europe’s Digital Single Market and related implications for New Zealand businesses

25 February 2019 - 1 March 2019
New Zealand
© E. Prem / eutema
From February 25 through March 1, 2019, the European Commission-funded EPIC Project supported a week-long series of events entitled ‘AI, Data and Consumer Empowerment: Lessons from Europe’s Digital Single Market and Implications for New Zealand’. The series, which attracted some 120 registrants and included stops in Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland, was organized in partnership with New Zealand’s Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation.

The events were aimed at improving participants’ understanding of Europe’s new Digital Single Market (DSM) policies including, for example, data sovereignty and new AI initiatives. Sessions focused on lessons learned in realizing the DSM, as well as its implications for New Zealand-based businesses – in particular, for innovation and service delivery.

EPIC partner’s event organizer Hamish Mitchell concludes, “New Zealand businesses can learn extensively from Europe’s approach to digital innovation. This knowledge supports the growth of the New Zealand digital sector with an underlying focus on ethical practices and sound values.”

Featured presentations explained basic new principles in DSM-related areas such as the free flow of non-personal data; geo-blocking; algorithmic decision making and their impact on new technologies and services, e.g. Artificial Intelligence. Each presentation was followed by a robust discussion during which opportunities for research and innovation in ICT were explored. Topics included possible collaborations for New Zealand-based businesses with European organisations and potential areas for improved policy cooperation between New Zealand and the EU.

The changing geopolitical situations paired with a technology dominance of a few very large internet companies suggests that smaller economies need to find alliances based on shared values. In such a context, New Zealand and Europe should reinforce their collaboration in ICT research and innovation and potentially also in regulatory aspects.

The events featured presentations from EPIC Project coordinator, Austria-based eutema Technology Management, followed by statements from innovative local New Zealand businesses. In Auckland, guest speaker Paul O’Connor, founder of Datamine, also provided insights into how perceptions of personal data collection have changed over time. As a leading data and analytics consultancy and product developer, he understands how the EU’s DSM rules are influencing businesses globally – and even as far away from Europe as in New Zealand.

EPIC representative Erich Prem expressed enthusiasm about the cooperation potential: “Although a smaller nation, New Zealand has a lot to offer such as a thriving and innovative agritech sector and access to the Maori culture with its completely different notions of privacy and ownership compared to the mainstream European approach. We also discovered leading businesses that take inspiration from European standards in business process modelling – it would be great to see them collaborating with Europe again.”

The New Zealand dates followed two extremely successful EPIC Project-supported events in Australia last month: A Melbourne meetup entitled ‘Europe’s new Digital Single Market and Data Rules – Why should Australia care?’ co-hosted with Data Science Melbourne, and the ‘International Dimensions of Artificial Intelligence’ in Canberra in collaboration with the 3A Institute, the ANU Law School and the National Security College. Both events attracted international experts and sell-out crowds.

EPIC, initiated in 2017, is aimed at improving cooperation in the area of information and communication technologies between Europe and partner countries Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. It is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (ICT) under Grant Agreement No. 687794. Currently, EPIC is the only EU supported action targeting ICT research cooperation with Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

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