NZ Law Foundation launches $2M information law and policy research fund

by Sol Dolor24 Aug 2016
The New Zealand Law Foundation has taken the wraps off an independent, $2 million research fund that seeks to support projects that prepare policy and legislature for the rapid advance of information technology.

Justice and Communications Minister Amy Adams formally launched the foundation’s Information Law and Policy Project (ILAPP) which will develop law and policy around IT, data, information and cyber-security at parliament last night.

“Technology affects virtually every area of our daily lives, and the pace of change has law-makers and bureaucrats struggling to keep up,” Law Foundation Executive Director Lynda Hagen said in a statement.

Hagen noted that the global nature of information poses both threats and opportunities for New Zealand which is why the foundation in working with the academe on the project.

“What capabilities do we need to deal with cyber-crime, now a $400 billion global industry? How can citizens control use of their data – and what is the impact of technology on our democracy?” she said.

ILAPP aims to gather the country’s best to work on “solutions that are right for us,” she noted, saying that the work the project will do “couldn’t be more critical” for the “small, trade-dependent” New Zealand.

Under the project, experts will be gathered to work on specific research that tackles certain issues in the IT field.

ILAPP, assisted by a 10-member independent specialist advisory review committee which will help assess and finalise aspects of research projects being supported, will give research teams they support three years to complete their projects.

According to the foundation, the seven areas of concentration they have identified for the project’s research grants are:
  1. The global nature of information – how we manage it and trade in it.
  2. Cyber security and crime – what capabilities are needed to protect against this?
  3. Social change following technological change – how is technology affecting society and how can the law keep up?
  4. Ownership/exploitation of data – how can citizens control use of their data?
  5. Philosophical notions – looking at the impact of technology on the State and what that means for democracy and other constitutional issues.
  6. The ethics of inference – algorithmic decision making and its implications for society.
  7. The exclusionary effect of technology – catering for citizens and business lacking the ability to access and unlock the benefits of technology.
ILAPP will have a collaborative approach to research in which law faculty deans help form cross-institutional research proposals and bring together the best available multi-disciplinary teams from New Zealand’s talent pool to improve the quality of research under the project.

According to the law foundation, potential collaborators include computer scientists, economists, sociologists, philosophers, IT and data specialists, business, cyber-security experts, government/public sector, crown research institutes, civil society and users.

“The Law Foundation supports independent legal thinking. We will work collaboratively with government and private interests, but the research outcomes must serve the wider public rather than any vested interest,” Hagen said.
“We expect the projects to have practical outcomes, in particular on how New Zealand can gain commercially, and be protected, through technology developments. For example, how can New Zealand’s predominantly small businesses, lacking expertise and scale, unlock the economic value of their data?
“While the rapidly-evolving information landscape makes the development of lasting law and policy solutions especially challenging, we expect the projects to be future focussed, to identify ongoing issues and propose solution frameworks.”
ILAPP’s scope  has been developed in consultation with many interests including experts from the law schools, the Government’s 2015 cyber-security strategy, InternetNZ, the Innovation Partnership, the Data Futures Partnership, Google New Zealand, Spark and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.