How can we improve the governance of algorithms used to deliver public services?

Just Public Algorithms
September 2019 to April 2020

 Data analytics and algorithms are increasingly being used across public services in the UK to categorise citizens, allocate services, and predict behaviour. This project aims to support the improvement of governance of such analytics and algorithms. 

What did we do?

The project team reviewed existing work on algorithms in public services, current responsible research and innovation (RRI) frameworks around algorithms and AI, and emerging literature on public observatories. This review was accompanied by a mapping of existing examples of public engagement around the use of algorithms in public services in the UK.

Involve designed and ran a stakeholder workshop to reflect on the findings of the review and mapping work, and explore the value and shape of an institution or observatory of public perspectives about the use of such algorithms. 

By achieving these objectives this project aims to provide a comprehensive picture of citizen responses to the ways in which algorithms are being adopted in and around UK public services, from welfare payments to policing, healthcare and immigration. The key outputs of the ‘Just Public Algorithms’ project are: an academic paper presenting key findings from the review work (to be completed), mapping and stakeholder workshop on how to govern the use of algorithms in public services, and an accessible briefing note for policy-makers, practitioners and concerned citizens summarising the research and exploring how the outputs can improve responsible innovation of these approaches.

This work draws on Involve's recent work with stakeholders on the use of AI in public services as well as recent thinking both by Involve and UEA exploring new forms of public engagement around scientific and technological innovation. 

The project ran from September 2019 – April 2020.

Who's involved? 

The project was funded by Not Equal EPSRC Network+: Social Justice through the Digital Economy. The project was led by Dr Helen Pallett from the University of East Anglia (UEA), supported by Professor Jason Chilvers (also UEA), and us here at Involve.