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New Zealanders showing major concern over misuse of AI
Thu, 22nd Feb 2024

A recent study reveals that a significant majority of New Zealanders are worried about the potential malicious applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and its lack of regulation. Commissioned by InternetNZ, the research found that 72% of New Zealanders have raised apprehensions over AI being misused, while 42% confessed to being more worried about the technology than they were excited for its breakthroughs.

Fuelled by the rapid evolution of AI technology, InternetNZ Chief Executive Vivien Maidaborn commented that the level of concern expressed by New Zealand citizens is both "reasonable" and "responsible". Maidaborn noted that as the internet continues to evolve at a swift pace, it will constantly present us with new challenges. She emphasised that, "We need our government to be thinking about what guidelines, policies, and laws are required to keep us on the cutting edge."

As it stands, New Zealand ranks 42nd in the 2023 Government AI Readiness Index, noticeably lagging behind its neighbour, Australia, which stands at the 12th position. Given the growing concerns and the critical need to address the evolving scenarios, Maidaborn urged the government to take immediate action. "My big concern is that we won’t identify how fundamentally this will change our society and therefore get ahead of it in order to add value to us as New Zealanders," she said.

The study revealed a further insight into the state of awareness about AI among the New Zealand population. Despite growing fears, 63% of New Zealanders admitted having minimal knowledge about AI, and an additional 13% acknowledged they knew "nothing at all". Concurrently, concerning their overall feelings about AI, only 11% of the participants were more excited than concerned, and 40% reported experiencing both sentiments.

The survey also shed light on the online habits of New Zealanders. From the results, it is evident that a hefty chunk of personal time is spent online, with 63% spending between two to four hours a day on the internet outside of professional obligations. In terms of activity, social media was the most visited platform (48%), followed by email (40%) and streaming services (39%). It was noteworthy that daily use of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter appears to be in decline this year, even though these platforms still account for the majority of personal internet usage.

The study newly highlighted the spread reflections on the impact of the internet on cultural beliefs and values, where opinions divided among respondents. 37% believed the internet's impact was positive. In contrast, 28% considered it to be negative, with women more likely than men to believe that the internet had a negative effect on societal culture.

The research study also underscored significant concerns on the safety front. Almost 20% of the respondents said they had personally experienced online harm or harassment, with the numbers fluctuating among demographic groups. Among young people aged 18-29, this figure rose to 24% and was at 25% for Māori. Those with a long-term disability or impairment registered the highest rate of such experience, with 29% reporting online harm or harassment.