New digital tool helps caseworkers navigate complex legislation
A new digital tool may make it easier for companies and caseworkers to comply with the law. The tool, which highlights legal requirements in a given case process, was developed as a part of the recently completed research project Ecoknow and is used by caseworkers in Denmark and Italy.
Caseworkers and clients in the Danish municipalities struggle with IT systems that cannot take individual needs into account and are difficult to adapt to the ever-changing legislation. The inflexible systems are expensive to maintain and make it difficult for the caseworkers to meet the legal requirements. A four-year project
In 2017, Innovation Fund Denmark invested DKK 16 million in the four-year project Ecoknow, which aimed to investigate ways to make digital casework processes more intelligent, flexible, and transparent. The project, anchored at the IT University of Copenhagen, has just been completed and Principal Investigator, Professor and head of the software, data, people and society research section at Department of Computer Science at Copenhagen University, Thomas Hildebrandt, is proud of the achievement:
- Our interdisciplinary research group has created insight into the complexity of case management. For instance, we are now more adept at determining what types of problems are solved best by using technology – and when we’re better off leaving them to human estimations, he says and highlights the research article We Would Never Write That Down”: Classifications of Unemployed and Data Challenges for AI, which is based on a study conducted at a Danish job centre, where the caseworkers – among other things – categorise the welfare seekers and their ability to work. Main author of the article was PhD student Anette C M Petersen, who just defended her thesis. Earlier this year, the article was published in the proceedings of the ACM on HCI (PACM HCI) as part of the leading international conference on computer supported cooperative work (CSCW 2021):
- I’ve just been in a meeting where the article was referenced. It made us realise that not all caseworker data has to be committed to record for the sake of automatization. I think, the article will impact and nuance the discussion about how we want to use AI. Perhaps, it will make us hesitate a bit, he says. A new company
Ecoknow results have also informed the development of a new digital tool, which was created by Ecoknow researchers in collaboration with industry partners. The tool supports the caseworkers' tasks by guiding them in achieving legal compliance. Specifically, the tool gives the caseworker a reminder of which actions are required by law – or a checklist that can help the caseworker to create an overview of required actions, deadlines for meetings, responses etc.
- Let’s say a caseworker gets a report on a child. Then the digital tool starts a process, which then tells the caseworker that he or she must find out if there are special circumstances regarding the family, and so on. All these things that can be difficult to identify in the legislation will appear automatically. It is important to emphasize that the tool does not make decisions. It does not say that now the child must be removed from its parents, but it reminds the caseworker to meet with the relevant actors, the child, the parents, or whoever it may be. The power of decision is thus still with the caseworker which makes sense in relation to the aforementioned research article. Thereby, we have shown how artificial intelligence can be of great value by using it for something as unsexy and simple as digitizing the legislation to create transparency and avoid mistakes in the bureaucratic system, says Thomas Hildebrandt.
There has been great interest in the digital tool and during the project period, one of the project partners has established the company DCR Solutions which will ensure that the digital tool will be distributed after Ecoknow’s completion. And so far, it looks it has a lot of potential. In Denmark, several municipalities and companies, including KMD and Infoventure, have taken it into use. The municipality of Genoa in Italy uses the digital tool in construction cases and Thomas Hildebrandt expects other countries to adopt it as well.
- The structure of the legislation in Italy is very similar to the Danish equivalent. Several regulations such as GDPR or rules within finance are already international, and we have shown that the tools can be easily integrated with existing systems in other countries, he says.
Thomas Hildebrandt adds that he is particularly proud of the digital tool because it shows a new and perhaps more boring side of artificial intelligence, which does not get much attention in the media:
- I think there has been a lot of focus on self-driving cars and predictions of the future, which can make it difficult to know what to make of Artificial Intelligence. With Ecoknow, I think, we have shown that there are also some low-hanging, or rather tangible fruits in artificial intelligence; simply by using AI to make systems that are more transparent and that can help caseworkers comply with the law, he says. Ecoknow Project partners:
IT University of Copenhagen
Technical University of Denmark
During the project period the group of partners was extended to include Infoventure, Fujitsu and company Exformatics was replaced with the newly founded DCR Solutions. Learn more
about the Ecoknow activities, articles and results on EcoKnow.org