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Government algorithm transparency and accountability

Algorithms are the automatic decision-making processes used by computer programmes to identify patterns in data. These algorithms can be used to help government better understand New Zealand and New Zealanders. This knowledge means government can make good decisions and deliver services that are more effective and efficient.

However, the benefit of a tool, like an algorithm, depends on its careful and considerate use. When used with care and consideration, algorithms can help minimise the negative effects of our ever-present human bias - bringing positive change to Aotearoa New Zealand. Equally, when used without care or consideration, algorithms could help perpetuate human bias, or even amplify it.

In light of this power, transparency and accountability are critical to ensuring that the public can trust and support the government to use these tools in appropriate ways.

The Government Chief Data Steward leads the work to improve government algorithm transparency and accountability, to help New Zealanders have confidence in how the government uses algorithms.

Government Chief Data Steward

On this page

Algorithm charter for Aotearoa New Zealand

In 2020, the Minister of Statistics launched the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand that committed signing government agencies to improving consistency in transparency and accountability in their use of algorithms. This was a response to the recommendations from the 'Algorithm assessment report' in 2018 and also drew on the Principles for Safe and Effective Use of Data and Analytics.

As of 31 July 2023 there are 29 signatories to the charter.

Signatories [HTML]

Algorithm charter - Te Reo Māori [PDF 202 KB]
Algorithm charter - English [PDF 220 KB]
Algorithm charter [HTML]
Driving transparency, ethics and accountability in government use of algorithms - press release from Hon. James Shaw.
Algorithm assessment report [HTML]
Principles for safe and effective use of data and analytics
Consultation and submissions summary: draft Algorithm Charter

Algorithm impact assessment

The Algorithm Impact Assessment (AIA) toolkit provides tools to help agencies understand and assess the potential impacts of the algorithms they create or use. The AIA process is designed to support informed decision-making about the benefits and risks of government use of algorithms.

There are 4 tools in the toolkit:

  • The algorithm threshold assessment questionnaire helps those designing or using an algorithm to determine whether it presents a higher risk and therefore requires a more in-depth assessment.
  • The algorithm impact assessment questionnaire explores how the algorithm works, what governance is in place, possible impacts, and how risks might be mitigated.
  • The user guide provides explanations, clarifications, and case studies to support people with completing the impact assessment, and
  • The report template summarises the key risks and controls for decision makers.

Algorithm Threshold Assessment Questionnaire - [DOCX 58KB]
Algorithm Impact Assessment Questionnaire - [DOCX 87KB]
AIA User Guide - [PDF 1.1MB]
AIA User Guide - HTML
AIA Report Template - [DOCX 381KB]

Otherwise in the algorithm space

Our work on algorithm transparency and accountability, including the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand is part of a wider ecosystem and works together with existing tools, and research. This section provides some more information about other work that also shapes the government algorithm transparency and accountability environment (note that this list is not exhaustive).

Principles for the safe and effective use of data and analytics
Privacy Commissioner and Government Chief Data Steward, 2018

Government use of artificial intelligence in New Zealand [PDF 1.3 MB]
New Zealand Law Foundation and Otago University, 2019

Trustworthy AI in Aotearoa - AI principles
AI Forum New Zealand, 2020

Open government partnership
An international agreement to increase transparency

Data protection and use policy
Social Wellbeing Agency, 2020

Privacy, human rights, and ethics framework [PDF 258 KB]
Ministry of Social Development

Artificial intelligence: shaping a future New Zealand [PDF 10.9 MB]
AI Forum NZ
Published by the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Forum NZ, this report outlines opportunities and challenges for Aotearoa New Zealand to adopt AI. 

Digital Nations
Digital Nations is a network of the world’s most advanced digital nations with a shared goal of harnessing digital technology and new ways of working to improve citizens’ lives.

Contact us

If you’d like more information, have a question, or want to provide feedback, email

Content last reviewed 21 December 2023.