FST Government NZ Summit 2023: Shaping Aotearoa’s digital future

New Zealand conference wrap

The 9th Annual FST Government Summit in New Zealand recently brought together digital leaders for a day of profound discussions and insights into Aotearoa’s digital future.

The event began with a Mihi Whakatau, setting the tone for a lively and entertaining day.

Craig Jones, deputy chief executive of Stats NZ – Tatauranga Aotearoa, kicked off the plenary session with an engaging opening keynote on Data and Digital Innovation.

He discussed data system leadership, including risk management and embracing the possibilities for digital innovation.

“You need to think about data first if you’re thinking about going digital,” Jones said, highlighting the importance of data in digital transformation.

Jones emphasised the potential of data services to improve user experiences and community ties. His keynote highlighted the importance of cooperation, data standards, and transparency in any transformation endeavour.

Jones’ keynote brilliantly set the tone for the day, leading to the Executive Think Tank on Digital Leadership. The panel examined how the New Zealand government might improve its digital capabilities strategically. They identified framework establishment, foundational redesign, enhanced delivery evolution, and adaptive ways to overcome innovation barriers as essential priority areas.

The panel shaped two of the day’s reoccurring themes: collaboration and the ethical application of Generative AI.

The executive panel stressed the importance of balancing the opportunities and challenges of Generative AI in government, which Dheeren Vélu from Capgemini discussed further in his Technology keynote. Dheeren advocated for a shift in attitude, considering AI “as an enabler rather than a disruptor.”

The discussion on those key themes continued with the Data Panel Discussion, emphasising collaborative data integration for collective growth and data practices. Members emphasised the necessity of embracing AI’s potential for informed decision-making and the importance of ethical considerations in this disruptive technology. Panellists emphasised the importance of balancing safety and technological benefits while developing engagement with the private sector.

Later in the day, a panel discussion on cyber resilience emphasised the importance of collaboration in the face of cyber threats, which has already been established within the New Zealand Public Sector. Several panel members discussed their roles in fostering the long-standing successful partnership between many public-sector organisations.

The essential takeaways from this panel were empowering personnel to improve security and united problem-solving.

“We’re all solving the same problems… let’s solve them together,” a memorable comment reminded attendees of their common goal. Let us continue to collaborate and share our knowledge.”

Throughout the day, lightning talks delivered brief but powerful insights. Craig Hill of the Ministry of Social Development emphasised the significance of specialised services, strong business cases, and agility as critical transformation drivers.

Michael Jagusch of the National Cyber Security Centre addressed essential cybersecurity efforts, including continuing security awareness and preventive steps.

The Government Chief Privacy Officer Katrine Evans reframed privacy as a driver of trust and reputation, urging adaptation and transparent data use.

The Ministry of Justice’s Suzanne Jones and Tony Breen shed light on promoting improved results through data and information assessments, emphasising teamwork and the transformative potential of digital capabilities.

The day was capped off with an enthralling closing speech on data-driven decision-making. The New Zealand Defence Force’s Carl Nixon, CIO, and Glenn Kirker, CDO, underlined the significance of moving at the pace of relevance in today’s digital world and the importance of migrating to data-centric systems.

According to Nixon, “today’s world is undeniably digital.” He explained that digital is less of a product and more of a process: “It is about turning data into insights, insights into decisions, and those decisions into actions.”

Kirker added: “The New Zealand Defence Force needs to move at the speed of relevance for a modern military. As government agencies, we need to accelerate, not just keep up,” he said.

Overall, the 9th Annual FST Government NZ conference emphasised the importance of data, cooperation, innovation, and adaptability as foundational elements for New Zealand’s digital future. The event demonstrated New Zealand’s ambition to remain at the forefront of digital leadership and seize the opportunities developed technology offers.