It is entirely natural that advances in digitalisation and the emergence of new technologies also raise questions in respect of fundamental rights and public values. We are therefore working to improve awareness and knowledge of new technologies, both among individual citizens and within government. In specific terms, we are focusing on improving understanding of the impact of technology and the possibilities of handling those technologies successfully. When new technologies are used by government, we will clarify requirements that are the natural consequence of public values, such as transparency, privacy and safety.
What have we achieved:
Digitalisation is in a position to make a vital contribution to our democratic society under the rule of law. Even during the current crisis period, meetings, public consultation and decision making can all still take place thanks to the use of a variety of digital tools, including online communication tools such as Skype and Webex. Digitalisation means that existing laws and rules need to be revised and in some cases replaced or supplemented with new legislation and regulations. This will help us remain up to date.
Attention for public values
An active start was made in 2019 on the provision of information to individual citizens to increase their knowledge of the effects of technology on public values and fundamental rights. BZK for example sponsored the National AI course. We also organised a series of ‘citizen dialogue sessions’ on the opportunities and risks offered by technology, for example during the ‘Data and Ethics: the Heart of AI Summit’. Citizen dialogue sessions involve a varied group of citizens who discuss their expectations of technologies and consider developments that they view as desirable or undesirable.
Together with the medialab SETUP, BZK also launched the Museum of the History of Algorithms. At this pop-up museum, visitors were taken back in time, for example to the pillarisation that marked society in the 1950s. According to a series of fictitious scenarios, they were able to experience what might have happened if algorithms had been available during that period. For children, a special edition of the Donald Duck magazine ‘Donald Duck dives into the digital world’ was produced in 2019, together with a teaching programme about AI and fundamental rights.
The quest for truth
The precise effects of digitalisation on society and the opportunities open to government to take appropriate action are not always clear. For that reason, we commissioned research into these themes, over the past few years. In September 2019, the Council for Public Administration published its recommendation ‘The quest for truth’ (Zoeken naar waarheid). This report analyses the threats and opportunities of digitalisation for democratic values. At the start of 2019, Kantar published results of research into the knowledge and attitude of citizens and entrepreneurs in respect of AI. Hooghiemstra & Partners looked into the use of algorithms by government, in 2019. Their most important recommendation was: to strength supervision by formulating standards for government algorithms and developing impact assessments.
A series of policy instruments were developed in 2019, aimed at supporting government organisations (and businesses) in reinforcing public values and fundamental rights in digitalisation programmes. One example is the toolbox on Ethically Responsible Innovation. This toolbox assumes seven core principles and assists government organisations in implementing digital innovations in an ethically responsible manner. For each core principle, a series of specific recommendations and tools are provided. In addition, the Ministries of BZK and JenV published guidelines in 2019 for the use of algorithms by government. The aim of these guidelines is to offer government organisations guidelines for the development and use of algorithms and to provide information to the public about data analyses.
Within what is known as Smart Society, governments, businesses, individual citizens and centres of knowledge are working together to develop integrated and data-driven solutions to improve the liveability, quality and competitive strength of our cities. In this framework, a method has been developed that will accelerate the development and upscaling of innovative digital solutions in what is known as ‘Impact Coalitions’, for example the coalitions for ‘Safety & Security’ and the ‘Digitalisation of Outdoor Space’. Growing numbers of municipalities are employing new technologies in public space. With this in mind, principles have been drawn up for a digital city. Among others, these principles take account of protecting public values in the process of digitalisation. The practical guideline ‘Open Urban Platforms’ has also been developed within the NEN standards organisation, that will for example be used by municipalities in tendering for platforms for the collection and exchange of data about cities.
Do you want to know more? Read the chapter protecting fundamental rights and public values? (PDF, 188Kb) .