Algoritmization and the key to building citizen trust
Government organizations increasingly use algorithms to become more effective. Predictive policing algorithms, for example, predict where and when criminal activity will occur. The ‘magic’ of these new technologies, however, is risky: their use may result in bias, discrimination and unfair treatment. A research team of Utrecht University led by prof. Albert Meijer will investigate to what degree sensitiveness to values such as privacy and equal treatment and transparency of the use of the algorithm can strengthen the trust of citizens. The empirical research focuses on a government sector in which algorithmization has a profound impact and where citizen trust is crucial, namely the police. The desired end product: a validated Organization Reflection Tool for Algorithmization.
Value-Sensitive and Transparent Algoritmization: Key to Building Citizen Trust?
The Utrecht University research project ‘Value-Sensitive and Transparent Algoritmization: Key to Building Citizen Trust?’ has received a € 750.000 funding by NWO from the Open Competition for Digitalisation SSH. The project is lead by prof. Albert Meijer (School of Governance). The other team members are: prof. José van Dijck, dr. Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen, dr. Mirko Schaefer and prof. Floris Bex. It is closely linked to the Utrecht University research focus area Governing the Digital Society.
The project responds to an urgent societal need to identify desirable forms of algorithmization in the public sector. The claim to be investigated in the project is that value-sensitive and transparent algorithmization are needed to ensure that public organizations maintain the trust of citizens.
The project’s key academic ambition is to create a thorough understanding of the relation between the use of algorithms in the public sector and citizen trust. The empirical research focuses on a government sector in which algorithmization has a profound impact and where citizen trust is crucial: the police.
Key innovations of the project are:
- the focus on algorithmization as an organizational process
- the empirical analysis of effects of algorithmization on citizen trust
- the organizational design approach to algorithmization
- the knowledge production across disciplinary and academic-practitioner boundaries
Organisation Reflection Tool for Algorithmization
During this project the research team will collaborate with the police and other stakeholders (such as privacy groups) right from the start. After the project is finished the police and other government organizations will have a validated Organization Reflection Tool for Algorithmization (ORTA) to ensure that algorithms in such a way that they generate citizen trust.