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Netherlands

Open Algorithms (NL0031)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Netherlands Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Rijkswaterstaat Centrale Informatievoorziening (Central Information Services)

Support Institution(s): Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (DIO) To be determined. To be determined.

Policy Areas

Automated Decision-Making, Capacity Building, Digital Governance, E-Government

IRM Review

IRM Report: Netherlands Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Open Algorithms
1 July 2018 - 30 June 2020
Main action owner (organisation) Rijkswaterstaat Centrale Informatievoorziening (Central Information Services)
Description of the action point
Which social issue does the action point seek to address? More and more of the government's management and policy decisions are based on data and algorithms. Currently, decisions based on algorithms are not transparent to private citizens and companies, whereas the consequences of applying these algorithms can be of significant importance for society.
What is the action point? Drafting and mapping frameworks and guidelines for government organisations as a tool for making algorithms openly available. A decision tree will be drafted as a result of these frameworks and guidelines. The aim is to apply these frameworks, guidelines and the decision tree in a pilot while publishing some algorithms.
How will the action point contribute to remedying the social issue? The knowledge of and experience with making algorithms openly available is still limited. However the increase in the use of algorithms, and the importance of algorithms in policy and management decisions, makes it important that knowledge, experience and tools about, and for this, are developed and shared. The action point shows which legal, technical, policy and organisational considerations come into play when deciding whether or not to make such algorithms openly available. These considerations result in a decision tree. Based on this, the ambition is that some algorithms should actually be made openly available.
A task force will be set up with representatives from different government organisations, possibly also from international organisations.
Making algorithms openly available sheds a light on the substantiation and operation of algorithms and can thus make a contribution to both the accountability of government policy and government decisions and their quality.
Why is this action point relevant to OGP values? The action point is relevant to transparency. The action point contributes to the publishing of government information, i.e. algorithms.
The action point is relevant to public accountability. The action point gives the public and community organisations access to management and policy decisions taken by the government.

Additional information There is limited availability of, but also a limited need for, budget for the action point.
It is expected that the lion's share of the work will be the efforts by civil servants which will not be claimed.
An indicative annual amount of €25,000 to €50,000 will be needed, e.g. for legal advice or for the technical realisation of the decision tree.

There are intersections with other government and non-government programmes, such as at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the Dutch National Archives.

Milestone with a verifiable result (please note: SMART) Start date: End date:
Task force prepared. Two meetings organised.
Action plan drafted. 1 July 2018 31 December 2018
Workshop focussing on sharing knowledge.
Completion of the report: mapping and analysis of the playing field; legal, technical aspects; analysis of actors 01 January 2019 30 June 2019
Completion of a draft report on frameworks and guidelines on open algorithms; draft decision tree (graphic); one algorithm open (pilot) 01 July 2019 31 December 2019
Completion of a final report on frameworks and guidelines including decision tree ; one to three algorithms open. 01 January 2020 30 June 2020
3 – 5 workshops during the term of the project aimed at sharing knowledge 01 July 2018 30 June 2020
Contact information
Name of the responsible person representing the main action owner Eric Blaakman
Position, organisational unit Data Management Center Manager, Rijkswaterstaat CIV
Email and phone number Eric.blaakman@rws.nl; +31(0)6-46344475Other actors involved Authorities involved Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (DIO)

To be determined.

Other organisations or bodies (such as community organisations or the private sector) To be determined.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Open Algorithms

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

Drafting and mapping frameworks and guidelines for government organisations as a tool for making algorithms openly available. A decision tree will be drafted as a result of these frameworks and guidelines. The aim is to apply these frameworks, guidelines and the decision tree in a pilot while publishing some algorithms. [22]

Milestones

6.1. Task force prepared. Two meetings organised. Action plan drafted.

6.2. Workshop focusing on sharing knowledge. Completion of the report: mapping and analysis of the playing field; legal, technical aspects; analysis of actors.

6.3. Completion of a draft report on frameworks and guidelines on open algorithms; draft decision tree (graphic); one algorithm open (pilot).

6.4. Completion of a final report on frameworks and guidelines, including decision tree; one to three algorithms open.

6.5. 3-5 workshops during the term of the project aimed at sharing knowledge

Start Date: July 2018     

End Date: June 2020

Context and Objectives

In 2014, the Rathenau Institute [23] published a report stating that, at that point, government, regulators, businesses, and society at large were insufficiently equipped to deal with many new digital challenges. The report argued that transparency over algorithmic decision-making is increasingly important in order to prevent their possible manipulation. [24] Two years later, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) published a report providing recommendations to the Dutch government on how to deal with the increasing role of big data, artificial intelligence, and algorithmic decision-making vis-à-vis privacy, security, and transparency. [25] The Dutch government concurred with most recommendations, including that algorithms used for big data-analyses should be ‘appropriate’ and meet certain criteria, and are preferably scientifically validated. The government also agrees that algorithms need to be transparent for reasons of oversight and legal supervision. [26] The extent to which algorithms are used, however, appears to be unknown. In October 2017, following debate in parliament where concerns were expressed over possible bias in algorithms and whether specific regulation should be put in place, the government committed to stocktaking and mapping the use of algorithms in government practice, including eventual challenges and dilemmas. [27]

Against this backdrop, the third action plan features a commitment on open algorithms and has been inspired by an introspective view by civil servants themselves. The commitment text mentions how big data is increasingly impacting decision-making in the public sector and how that currently is not a transparent process. Such reflections, and the ensuing self-appointed internal investigation on how technological solutions that support public decision-making can be more transparent, are relevant for the government on the use of such technologies going forward. It is therefore relevant to the OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation for transparency and accountability.

Through this work, involved organizations intend to draft guidelines for government agencies on how to make algorithms openly available and develop a decision tree to assist in such a process. The planned activities are specific and verifiable, however only generally. Planned activities, such as the organizing of workshops and mapping the playing field (6.2), as well as drafting a report on guidelines and a pilot open algorithm (6.3, 6.4), do not explain in detail the commitment’s broader objective, or what criteria will drive the referenced decision tree for selecting the pilot algorithm. In addition, from the text it is unclear if linkages exist to the broader policy context and the studies and discussions mentioned above. While the commitment, as written, is unlikely to significantly change thinking around how algorithms are used in central government decision-making, the activities could provide an important first step towards greater algorithm transparency. The potential impact is therefore considered moderate.

Next steps

While recognizing that algorithmic transparency is a highly complex matter, both from a technical and political point of view, the IRM researcher recommends the following steps:

  • Involved stakeholders could draw more on existing bodies of domestic work in this area, and where possible join forces so that duplication of efforts can be prevented, and valuable lessons learnt can directly feed into broader policy discussions at the national political level;
  • Consider refining and sharpening the objectives of the work towards pioneering algorithmic accountability and transparency, including a mapping (or drawing on the mapping exercise commissioned by the government) of the most impactful or important algorithms influencing government decision-making (high-value datasets) and specifically target such algorithms in future work, as well as explicitly seek to audit such algorithms for undesirable results or bias;
  • Following the 2014 Rathenau report, the IRM researcher suggests exploring what it would take for citizens to be made ‘future-proof’ and directly involve citizens and CSOs in this work. That way, we can better assess what skills or knowledge citizens are missing that inhibits their developments of ‘technological citizenship’. [28]

[22] The complete text of this commitment, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Netherlands_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf

[23] The Rathenau Institute is an independent Dutch research institute managed under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, funded mainly by the government. https://www.rathenau.nl/en/about-us/who-we-are

[24] https://www.rathenau.nl/nl/digitale-samenleving/maatschappij-niet-klaar-voor-digitale-samenleving

[25] https://english.wrr.nl/publications/policy-briefs/2017/01/31/big-data-and-security-policies-serving-security-protecting-freedom

[26] https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/detail?id=2016D43893&did=2016D43893

[27] https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/detail?id=2018D16670&did=2018D16670

[28] https://www.rathenau.nl/nl/digitale-samenleving/technologisch-burgerschap-de-democratische-uitdaging-van-de-eenentwintigste


Commitments

  1. Local Digital Democracy

    NL0028, 2018, E-Government

  2. Dilemma Logic

    NL0029, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Join EITI

    NL0030, 2018, Access to Information

  4. Open Algorithms

    NL0031, 2018, Automated Decision-Making

  5. Open Local Decision-Making

    NL0032, 2018, Access to Information

  6. ‘Open by Design’ Pilots

    NL0033, 2018, Access to Information

  7. Open Contracting

    NL0034, 2018, Access to Information

  8. Open Parliament

    NL0035, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  9. Open Government Standard and Dashboard

    NL0036, 2018, Access to Information

  10. Pioneering Network for an Open Government for Municipalities

    NL0037, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Transparent Political Party Finance

    NL0038, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  12. National Open Data Agenda

    NL0019, 2016, Access to Information

  13. Stuiveling Open Data Award

    NL0020, 2016, Access to Information

  14. Groningen Open Data Re-Use

    NL0021, 2016, Access to Information

  15. Releasing Ministerial Research Reports

    NL0022, 2016, Access to Information

  16. Detailed Open Spending Data

    NL0023, 2016, Access to Information

  17. Open Local Authority Decision-Making

    NL0024, 2016, Access to Information

  18. Training Civil Servants on Public Participation

    NL0025, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Easier Freedom of Information Requests

    NL0026, 2016, Access to Information

  20. Open Government Expertise Centre (LEOO)

    NL0027, 2016, Access to Information

  21. Further Develop and Promote Disclosure and Use of Open Data

    NL0001, 2013, Access to Information

  22. Increase Financial Transparency Through Open Budget and Experiments with Open Spending and Budget Monitoring

    NL0002, 2013, Access to Information

  23. Open House of Representatives

    NL0003, 2013, E-Government

  24. Instruments for Integrity

    NL0004, 2013, Anti-Corruption

  25. Revamp the Legislative Calendar

    NL0005, 2013, Access to Information

  26. More Online Consultation

    NL0006, 2013, E-Government

  27. More Transparency in Decision-Making Through Volgdewet.Nl Legislation-Tracking Website

    NL0007, 2013, Access to Information

  28. Informal Approach to Freedom of Information Requests

    NL0008, 2013, Access to Information

  29. From Rules to Freedom

    NL0009, 2013, Public Participation

  30. Change Attitudes and Procedures Through Smarter Working and ‘Public Servant 2.0’

    NL0010, 2013, Capacity Building

  31. Water Coalition

    NL0011, 2013, Public Participation

  32. Develop and Implement Participation Policy at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment

    NL0012, 2013, Public Participation

  33. Make Government Information Accessible and Easy to Find

    NL0013, 2013, Capacity Building

  34. Make Citizens Better Informed and More Empowered: Public Inspection and Correction of Information

    NL0014, 2013, E-Government

  35. Open Announcements and Notifications

    NL0015, 2013, E-Government

  36. Public Services and the User Perspective

    NL0016, 2013, E-Government

  37. Designate Categories of Government Information for Active Access

    NL0017, 2013, Access to Information

  38. Rethink Information Management and Active Access: Four ‘Open by Design’ Pilot Projects

    NL0018, 2013, Access to Information

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