ITU launches research center for digital welfare
We know too little about the consequences of comprehensive digitization of the welfare society. Now, a new interdisciplinary research center at ITU will investigate the effects of public digital solutions and create a basis for ensuring that public digitization aligns with the values of the welfare society.
IPads in primary schools, chatbots in job centers, digital doctor consultations and self-service tax forms. Digital solutions have become an integral part of the Danish welfare system – to such an extent that the UN named Denmark the world’s leading country in public digitization in 2018.
However, despite an extensive digital infrastructure, little Danish research has examined the long-term consequences of digitization. Therefore, the IT University of Copenhagen is now launching the Center for Digital Welfare, which will investigate a number of issues related to digitization in the public sector.
»“Digital welfare is about much more than creating effective IT solutions and providing a good service to citizens. Digitization alters the work processes of public employees, changes the nature of the meeting between citizens and the public system, and intervenes in the way we understand and interact with the welfare state. It is important to investigate the consequences of digitization more closely in order to gain a scientific basis for ensuring the best possible development in the future,” says Martin Zachariasen, Vice Chancellor at ITU.
It is important to investigate the consequences of digitization more closely in order to gain a scientific basis for ensuring the best possible development in the future.«
The new research center will bring together researchers from all three ITU departments, and will place great emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers in areas such as design, organizations and everyday life, and computer science.
“Public digitization is incredibly complex and involves many stakeholders, which requires an interdisciplinary approach. With health data, for instance, there are technical issues related to IT security, questions about how the use of data changes the relationship between doctor and patient, as well as difficult ethical dilemmas. At ITU, we have a strong interdisciplinary research environment, which provides a good starting point for studying the broad range of issues related to public digitalization,” says Martin Zachariasen.
Technology has built-in values
Head of the Center for Digital Welfare will be Brit Ross Winthereik, Professor in ITU’s Business IT Department, who has been researching public digitization for more than 20 years.
She finds that more research is needed on the values accompanying digitization.
“Sometimes decisions about IT in the public sector are made in the hope that if we just get some new technology, it will probably also support our values – if we give primary school students tablets, the teaching will automatically improve. But this is not necessarily the case, since IT is not a neutral tool. IT always comes with certain values, possibilities and limitations which have consequences for users and which can be difficult to predict,” she says and continues:
»“So far, we have largely focused on making efficient and functioning IT, but the time has come to investigate whether the IT infrastructure used to deliver welfare tasks aligns with the values that the welfare society is built on. around. We need more knowledge in this area,” she says.
[I]T is not a neutral tool. It always comes with certain values, possibilities and limitations which have consequences for users and which can be difficult to predict.«
The new research center will also deal with issues related to public-private partnerships, digital management, the changing job functions of public employees and citizen involvement in the development of public IT solutions.
The Center for Digital Welfare will be launched with an opening event at ITU in early 2020.
Brit Ross Winthereik, Professor, phone +45 7218 5326, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email email@example.com