Researchers to examine government use of big data
A group of researchers from the IT University of Copenhagen has received funding from the VELUX Foundation for a research project that will examine how the public sector can exploit big data, all the while handling citizen data responsibly.
The big data revolution has long since hit the public sector in Denmark, a front-runner in Europe when it comes to data driven governance. Now, a new research project at the IT University will examine how public institutions can realize the potential of big data while respecting democratic values like openness and accountability.
A DKK 7.7 million from the VELUX Foundation is going to fund the project, which will be led by Brit Ross Winthereik, Associate Professor at the IT University. According to her, we should understand the use of big data and digitization in the public sector as a fundamental change in the decision-making processes, not only as an upgrade of old infrastructures.
"We would like to expand notions about decision-making. The moment you start selecting which data you want to collect about citizens, you are already making policy-related decisions. Decision-making is not just something that takes place once the data has been collected," says Brit Ross Winthereik
New ethical questions
Public sector use of big data also raises important new ethical issues that we must discuss, she continues.
- We are increasingly becoming the data we produce. Every time we are in contact with the government, and as smart cities become a reality, we are leaving traces everywhere. In this way, big data has already created a new relationship between government and citizens. But we haven’t yet developed a language to talk about how our data is used responsibly by the authorities that are there to take care of us. In this project, we would like to describe these new processes and relationships created by big data and digitalization.
Toolbox for public institutions
The team of researchers will examine opportunities and challenges in relation to big data based on five case studies, including SKAT, the Danish tax authority and the technology company Hitachi. The results will contribute to a toolbox that can help public institutions deal with the complex issues revolving around digitization.
"The organizations will get the social science methods in relation to data management we are working with as well as specific tools to analyse data and reflect upon data use in the best possible way," says Brit Ross Winthereik.
The grant from the VELUX Foundation will fund four PhDs and a postdoctoral position. The project will be placed in the recently established ETHOS Lab at ITU, which combines anthropological and digital methods in teaching and with its work with external collaborators.
Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email email@example.com