UK government publishes pioneering standard for algorithmic transparency


UK Government Press Release: “The UK government has today launched one of the world’s first national standards for algorithmic transparency.

This move delivers on commitments made in the National AI Strategy and National Data Strategy, and strengthens the UK’s position as a global leader in trustworthy AI.

In its landmark review into bias in algorithmic decision-making, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) recommended that the UK government should place a mandatory transparency obligation on public sector organisations using algorithms to support significant decisions affecting individuals….

The Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) has worked closely with the CDEI to design the standard. It also consulted experts from across civil society and academia, as well as the public. The standard is organised into two tiers. The first includes a short description of the algorithmic tool, including how and why it is being used, while the second includes more detailed information about how the tool works, the dataset/s that have been used to train the model and the level of human oversight. The standard will help teams be meaningfully transparent about the way in which algorithmic tools are being used to support decisions, especially in cases where they might have a legal or economic impact on individuals.

The standard will be piloted by several government departments and public sector bodies in the coming months. Following the piloting phase, CDDO will review the standard based on feedback gathered and seek formal endorsement from the Data Standards Authority in 2022…(More)”.

Data Powered Positive Deviance Handbook


Handbook by GIZ and UNDP: “Positive Deviance (PD) is based on the observation that in every community or organization, there are a few individuals who achieve significantly better outcomes than their peers, despite having similar challenges and resources. These individuals are referred to as positive deviants, and adopting their solutions is what is referred to as the PD approach.
The method described in this Handbook follows the same logic as the PD approach but uses pre-existing, non-traditional data sources instead of — or in conjunction with — traditional data sources. Non-traditional data in this context broadly refers to data that is digitally captured (e.g. mobile phone records and financial data), mediated (e.g. social media and online data), or observed (e.g. satellite imagery). The integration of such data to complement traditional data sources generally used in PD is what we refer to as Data Powered Positive Deviance (DPPD)…(More)”.

Surveillance, Companionship, and Entertainment: The Ancient History of Intelligent Machines


Essay by E.R. Truitt: “Robots have histories that extend far back into the past. Artificial servants, autonomous killing machines, surveillance systems, and sex robots all find expression from the human imagination in works and contexts beyond Ovid (43 BCE to 17 CE) and the story of Pygmalion in cultures across Eurasia and North Africa. This long history of our human-machine relationships also reminds us that our aspirations, fears, and fantasies about emergent technologies are not new, even as the circumstances in which they appear differ widely. Situating these objects, and the desires that create them, within deeper and broader contexts of time and space reveals continuities and divergences that, in turn, provide opportunities to critique and question contemporary ideas and desires about robots and artificial intelligence (AI).

As early as 3,000 years ago we encounter interest in intelligent machines and AI that perform different servile functions. In the works of Homer (c. eighth century BCE) we find Hephaestus, the Greek god of smithing and craft, using automatic bellows to execute simple, repetitive labor. Golden handmaidens, endowed with characteristics of movement, perception, judgment, and speech, assist him in his work. In his “Odyssey,” Homer recounts how the ships of the Phaeacians perfectly obey their human captains, detecting and avoiding obstacles or threats, and moving “at the speed of thought.” Several centuries later, around 400 BCE, we meet Talos, the giant bronze sentry, created by Hephaestus, that patrolled the shores of Crete. These examples from the ancient world all have in common their subservient role; they exist to serve the desires of other, more powerful beings — either gods or humans — and even if they have sentience, they lack autonomy. Thousands of years before Karel Čapek introduced the term “robot” to refer to artificial slaves, we find them in Homer….(More)”.

Conceptualizing AI literacy: An exploratory review


Paper by Davy Tsz KitNg, Jac Ka LokLeung, Samuel K.W.Chu, and Maggie QiaoShen: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) has spread across industries (e.g., business, science, art, education) to enhance user experience, improve work efficiency, and create many future job opportunities. However, public understanding of AI technologies and how to define AI literacy is under-explored. This vision poses upcoming challenges for our next generation to learn about AI. On this note, an exploratory review was conducted to conceptualize the newly emerging concept “AI literacy”, in search for a sound theoretical foundation to define, teach and evaluate AI literacy. Grounded in literature on 30 existing peer-reviewed articles, this review proposed four aspects (i.e., know and understand, use, evaluate, and ethical issues) for fostering AI literacy based on the adaptation of classic literacies. This study sheds light on the consolidated definition, teaching, and ethical concerns on AI literacy, establishing the groundwork for future research such as competency development and assessment criteria on AI literacy….(More)”.

Perspectives on Platform Regulation


Open Access Book edited by Judit Bayer, Bernd Holznage, Päivi Korpisaari and Lorna Woods: “Concepts and Models of Social Media GovernanceOnline social media platforms set the agenda and structure for public and private communication in our age. Their influence and power is beyond any traditional media empire. Their legal regulation is a pressing challenge, but currently, they are mainly governed by economic pressures. There are now diverse legislative attempts to regulate platforms in various parts of the world. The European Union and most of its Member States have historically relied on soft law, but are now looking to introduce regulation.

Leading researchers of the field analyse the hard questions and the responses given by various states. The book offers legislative solutions from various parts of the world, compares regulatory concepts and assesses the use of algorithms….(More)”.

The Birth of Digital Human Rights


Book by Rebekah Dowd on “Digitized Data Governance as a Human Rights Issue in the EU”: “…This book considers contested responsibilities between the public and private sectors over the use of online data, detailing exactly how digital human rights evolved in specific European states and gradually became a part of the European Union framework of legal protections. The author uniquely examines why and how European lawmakers linked digital data protection to fundamental human rights, something heretofore not explained in other works on general data governance and data privacy. In particular, this work examines the utilization of national and European Union institutional arrangements as a location for activism by legal and academic consultants and by first-mover states who legislated digital human rights beginning in the 1970s. By tracing the way that EU Member States and non-state actors utilized the structure of EU bodies to create the new norm of digital human rights, readers will learn about the process of expanding the scope of human rights protections within multiple dimensions of European political space. The project will be informative to scholar, student, and layperson, as it examines a new and evolving area of technology governance – the human rights of digital data use by the public and private sectors….(More)”.

Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes


OECD Report: “Evaluations of representative deliberative processes do not happen regularly, not least due to the lack of specific guidance for their evaluation. To respond to this need, together with an expert advisory group, the OECD has developed Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes. They aim to encourage public authorities, organisers, and evaluators to conduct more comprehensive, objective, and comparable evaluations.

These evaluation guidelines establish minimum standards and criteria for the evaluation of representative deliberative processes as a foundation on which more comprehensive evaluations can be built by adding additional criteria according to specific contexts and needs.

The guidelines suggest that independent evaluations are the most comprehensive and reliable way of evaluating a deliberative process.

For smaller and shorter deliberative processes, evaluation in the form of self-reporting by members and/or organisers of a deliberative process can also contribute to the learning process…(More)”.

The Global State of Democracy Report 2021


IDEA Report: “The world is becoming more authoritarian as non-democratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression and many  democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting their tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, exacerbated by what threatens to become a “new normal” of Covid-19 restrictions. For the fifth consecutive year, the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction exceeds the number of countries moving in a democratic direction. In fact, the number moving in the direction of authoritarianism is three times the number moving towards democracy. …

Yet, democracy is resilient.

Protest and civic action are alive and well.  Pro-democracy movements have braved repression around the world, and global social movements for tackling climate change and fighting racial inequalities have emerged. In spite of restrictions, more than three-quarters of countries have experienced protests during the pandemic.  

Many democracies have proved resilient to the pandemic, introducing or expanding democratic innovations and adapting their practices and institutions in record time. Countries around the world rapidly activated Special Voting Arrangements to allow citizens to continue to hold elections in exceedingly difficult conditions….(More)”

Randomistas vs. Contestistas


Excerpt by By Beth Simone Noveck: “Social scientists who either run experiments or conduct systematic reviews tend to be fervent proponents of the value of RCTs. But that evidentiary hierarchy—what some people call the “RCT industrial complex”—may actually lead us to discount workable solutions just because there is no accompanying RCT.

A trawl of the solution space shows that successful interventions developed by entrepreneurs in business, philanthropy, civil society, social enterprise, or business schools who promote and study open innovation, often by developing and designing competitions to source ideas, often come from more varied places. Uncovering these exciting social innovations lays bare the limitations of confining a definition of what works only to RCTs.

Many more entrepreneurial and innovative solutions are simply not tested with an RCT and are not the subject of academic study. As one public official said to me, you cannot saddle an entrepreneur with having to do a randomized controlled trial (RCT), which they do not have the time or know-how to do. They are busy helping real people, and we have to allow them “to get on with it.”

For example, MIT Solve, which describes itself as a marketplace for socially impactful innovation designed to identify lasting solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. It catalogs hundreds of innovations in use around the world, like Faircap, a chemical-free water filter used in Mozambique, or WheeLog!, an application that enables individuals and local governments to share accessibility information in Tokyo.

Research funding is also too limited (and too slow) for RCTs to assess every innovation in every domain. Many effective innovators do not have the time, resources, or know-how to partner with academic researchers to conduct a study, or they evaluate projects by some other means.

There are also significant limitations to RCTs. For a start, systematic evidence reviews are quite slow, frequently taking upward of two years, and despite published standards for review, there is a lack of transparency. Faster approaches are important. In addition, many solutions that have been tested with an RCT clearly do not work. Interestingly, the first RCT in an area tends to produce an inflated effect size….(More)”.

Automating Decision-making in Migration Policy: A Navigation Guide


Report by Astrid Ziebarth and Jessica Bither: “Algorithmic-driven or automated decision-making models (ADM) and programs are increasingly used by public administrations to assist human decision-making processes in public policy—including migration and refugee policy. These systems are often presented as a neutral, technological fix to make policy and systems more efficient. However, migration policymakers and stakeholders often do not understand exactly how these systems operate. As a result, the implications of adopting ADM technology are still unclear, and sometimes not considered. In fact, automated decision-making systems are never neutral, nor is their employment inevitable. To make sense of their function and decide whether or how to use them in migration policy will require consideration of the specific context in which ADM systems are being employed.

Three concrete use cases at core nodes of migration policy in which automated decision-making is already either being developed or tested are examined: visa application processes, placement matching to improve integration outcomes, and forecasting models to assist for planning and preparedness related to human mobility or displacement. All cases raise the same categories of questions: from the data employed, to the motivation behind using a given system, to the action triggered by models. The nuances of each case demonstrate why it is crucial to understand these systems within a bigger socio-technological context and provide categories and questions that can help policymakers understand the most important implications of any new system, including both technical consideration (related to accuracy, data questions, or bias) as well as contextual questions (what are we optimizing for?).

Stakeholders working in the migration and refugee policy space must make more direct links to current discussions surrounding governance, regulation of AI, and digital rights more broadly. We suggest some first points of entry toward this goal. Specifically, for next steps stakeholders should:

  1. Bridge migration policy with developments in digital rights and tech regulation
  2. Adapt emerging policy tools on ADM to migration space
  3. Create new spaces for exchange between migration policymakers, tech regulators, technologists, and civil society
  4. Include discussion on the use of ADM systems in international migration fora
  5. Increase the number of technologists or bilinguals working in migration policy
  6. Link tech and migration policy to bigger questions of foreign policy and geopolitics…(More)”.