NSW wants to be known as digital capital of the southern hemisphere by 2023

The state government believes the release of its first AI strategy will be help it get there.

The New South Wales Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello has vowed to make the state the digital capital of the southern hemisphere in the next three years, releasing its inaugural artificial intelligence (AI) strategy to help achieve that goal.

"AI stands for absolutely imperative for the new New South Wales. As we get out of this COVID period, we need to make sure we create a new New South Wales, which is technology-focused … AI is absolutely at the heart of this," he said.

"When you think about what's happening around us, AI is already here. AI is in the drones as it protects us from sharks. AI is looking after us in the hospitals. AI is helping us on the roads as we try to avoid traffic. AI is already part of lives; we don't see it, but it is already here, and it is going to grow exponentially in the years ahead.

"New South Wales is unashamed to be the digital capital of the southern hemisphere in the next three years. This strategy ensures we get there."

The strategy, launched on Friday, was released nine months after the state government initially announced plans to deliver it in March.

Under the strategy, the NSW government has prioritised the need to develop a consistent AI ethics policy to build public trust.

See also: Citizen data compromised as Service NSW falls victim to phishing attack    

The NSW government has established an AI review committee, chaired by the NSW government chief data scientist Ian Oppermann, that will advise the government on what those ethical policies should look like. The committee will also be made up of 10 additional members who have yet to be announced.

The strategy also outlines the need to develop AI skills and for government to strengthen partnerships with industry through a consistent approach to procure AI products and services.

On the point of skills, Dominello believes it is something that needs to be developed from the top down.

"We have to build it through the schools and TAFE. We're already mapping that out. Getting out in front of the curve and saying this is where we want our state to be, this is where we're putting the money, this is where the jobs are going to be, that's going to percolate all the way down the education system," he told ZDNet.

"You can't say to the kids 'go do AI' when the government is not even putting any money behind it. It's all about leadership."

When asked how the success of the strategy would be tracked, Dominello pointed to the amount of funding the government plans to invest as one example.

"It's an important metric because it's easy for orators like me to stand up and say we're going to fly to the moon and leave it on the shelf, but you've got to put the money behind the mouthpiece," he said.

"What we've done already is put an unprecedented AU$1.7 billion -- AU$240 million is already in cyber -- that alone anchors us as the leader … because nobody is doing this.

"This will be a catalyst for more. This will turn and turn and get bigger and bigger. It's like the beginning of a snowball down a mountain."

Read more: NSW government to launch a cybersecurity centre in Bathurst

Dominello is optimistic the strategy will help nudge other states and territories, as well as the federal government, to do something similar.

"I'm a proud New South Welshman, but I'm a proud Australian. This is a critical play for Australia, it's not just NSW. It's got to be a part of the national priority. We can't be a country that simply scratches the soil and waits for the iron and ore to come out, and the money. We've got to be the smart nation," he said.

Last month, the NSW government launched its Smart Places Strategy and Smart Infrastructure Policy, which outlined how it plans to build sensors and technology into infrastructure and buildings.

Under that strategy, the government hopes to see all smart places be embedded with sensors and communications technology in infrastructure and the natural environment; see sensors and technology solutions be used to capture, safely store, and make government-acquired data available; and be able to communicate information and insights using the data to drive decisions. 

Dominello boasted that building smart tech into infrastructure and buildings would create jobs, enhance security, improve quality of life, reduce environmental impacts, and promote data sharing.

"Whether it's easing cost of living pressure for households, busting congestion, or improving health outcomes for communities, technology is the new weapon in our arsenal," he said. 

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