DKK 6 million for research on the effects of public digitization
Researchers at the IT University of Copenhagen have received a DKK 6 million grant from the VELUX Foundation for a research project that will investigate the effects of digitization in law enforcement, the health care system, primary schools and municipal administrations.
The 'Welfare after the Digitization' project is one of the seven humanities research projects receiving support from the VELUX Foundation core group programme this year.
“Digitization brings a lot of positive things, such as self-service solutions and the opportunity to share information with citizens which they have not previously had access to. But it also has hidden consequences that we don’t know enough about yet. These include, among other things, what happens in the meeting between the state and the citizen when the meeting takes place digitally, and the risk of bias being integrated into digital systems,” says ITU researcher Vasilis Galis, who will lead the research project.
In four sub-projects, the researchers will use ethnographic, historical and technical methods to investigate the consequences of digitization in four core areas of the Danish welfare system: the police, the health care system, primary schools and the municipal administrations.
Data in police work and tech giants in municipalities
Among other things, the researchers will take a closer look at the police's use of the analytics system Polintel, which combines information from the police's own IT systems with, for example, the Central Person Register in order to make investigative work easier.
“Data and algorithms are becoming a bigger and bigger part of police work. We will explore whether the use of the system influences the basic values of the police of as an institution, expectations for the role of algorithms in police work, and how the system is used in specific interactions with citizens. These are questions of great significance to our experience of living in a well-functioning democracy,” says Vasilis Galis.
Another sub-project is about the influence of tech giants on the administration of Danish municipalities.
"Several Danish municipalities have partnered with tech giants such as Google on digital infrastructure. This raises a number of questions about protection of citizen data, as well as the role of tech companies in defining the strategies of municipal governance," says Vailis Galis.
The third sub-project focuses on the health IT system ‘Sundhedsplatformen’ – what it means for citizens to be able to access their own health data through a digital platform, as well as the consequences of digital interaction between doctor and patient. Finally, researchers will examine digitization in primary schools, particularly the efforts to increase students' IT skills and understanding of technology.
More transparent solutions
According to Vasilis Galis, the goal of the project is to contribute to a better understanding of the nature of digitization and its consequences across sectors.
»“We want to investigate what happens during the digitization process and what happens when citizens use and are influenced by specific IT solutions. Ultimately, we hope to be able to create a catalog of proposals for how the public sector can create engaging and more transparent solutions,” he says.
Ultimately, we hope to be able to create a catalog of proposals for how the public sector can create engaging and more transparent solutions.«
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