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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Public Fairness Perceptions of Algorithmic Governance

Alternative title: Rettferdige algoritmer i offentlig forvaltning

Awarded: NOK 10.2 mill.

What is a fair algorithm? Algorithms are increasingly being used by governments to make decisions that impact individual citizens' lives. Thus, we are on the verge of a revolution in the public sector, where computers will take over many of the governance tasks previously assigned to human bureaucrats. With it, the conditions for impartial and transparent treatment of citizens are changing. Increased capacity to process relevant information enhances the potential for making more accurate and efficient judgments. Yet, we also run the risk of creating a black box society where citizens are being kept in the dark about the decision-making processes, potentially undermining the legitimacy of governmental institutions among the citizens they serve. While significant attention in the recent few years has been devoted to theoretical discussions on fairness, accountability, and transparency related to algorithmic decision making, little is still known about citizens’ views on this issue. There is thus an imminent need to study these emerging governance developments from a political science perspective, and that is what this project sets out to do. The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and The Digital Social Science Core Facilities (DIGSSCORE) at the University of Bergen are involved in the project, ensuring high data quality from top social science infrastructures. Web: https://www.norceresearch.no/prosjekter/public-fairness-perceptions-of-algorithmic-governance

This proposal aims to study what fairness perceptions citizens adhere to in relation to governance decisions based on algorithmic information processing, and how its use may affect democratic legitimacy. Such procedures are increasingly being introduced by government institutions to help making decisions that impact individual citizens on topics such as giving defendants parole, approving immigration applications, and determining eligibility for welfare programs. Thus, we are on the verge of a revolution in public sector decision-making processes, where computers will take over many of the governance tasks previously assigned to human bureaucrats. With it, the conditions for impartial and transparent treatment of citizens are changing. Increased capacity to process relevant information enhances the potential for making more accurate and efficient judgments. Yet, we also run the risk of creating a black box society where citizens are being kept in the dark about the decision-making processes that affect their lives, potentially undermining the legitimacy of governmental institutions among the citizens they serve. While significant attention in the recent few years has been devoted to normative discussions on fairness, accountability, and transparency related to algorithmic decision making, little is still known about citizens’ views on this issue. There is thus an imminent need to study these emerging governance developments from a political science perspective. This proposal aims to fill this gap by organizing both in-depth group discussions on this topic among representative samples of the Norwegian population through deliberative polling, as well as conduct survey experiments on larger representative survey samples. The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and The Digital Social Science Core Facilities (DIGSSCORE) at the University of Bergen are involved in the project, ensuring high data quality from top social science infrastructures.

Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon