NZ Govt launches major algorithm review


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 24 May, 2018



NZ Govt launches major algorithm review

The New Zealand Government has announced a project to assess how government agencies use algorithms to analyse citizens’ data.

The project, which will be led by the government’s Chief Data Steward, Liz MacPherson, and government Chief Digital Officer, Colin MacDonald, aims to ensure transparency and fairness in decisions that affect citizens.

The first step will involve a review in the government’s use of algorithms to search for patterns in government-held data to help model potential outcomes of various policies. It is expected to be completed by August.

Outcomes of the review will provide the foundation for a series of measures designed to improve the government’s transparency and accountability for the way it uses data, including new guidelines for government agencies aimed at ensuring consistency across the public sector.

Statistics Minister James Shaw said using existing data to help model possible outcomes is an important part of modern government decision-making.

“Examples include computer programs used by the Ministry of Health to ensure donated organs save lives, or the NZ Transport Agency’s computer modelling to make our roads safer. They show the power of data to make a positive difference to New Zealanders,” he said.

“But there are challenges as well, and we need to ensure that transparency and procedural fairness are maintained. That’s why we’ve asked officials to examine how government currently uses algorithms, to give New Zealanders confidence that their data is being used appropriately.”

New Zealand is also working with six other nations — the UK, Israel, Estonia, South Korea, Canada and Uruguay — to explore how digital technology impacts fundamental human rights and develop best practices for tackling common challenges.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/violetkaipa

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