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Government algorithm transparency and accountability

Updated 16 October 2019

Algorithms are an increasingly large part of everyday life in New Zealand. They have an essential role to play in supporting the delivery of government services to people in New Zealand and in ensuring that government policies are well-targeted and achieve their aims.

The government must ensure that data ethics are embedded in its work, and always keep in mind the people and communities being served by these tools.

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

Government Chief Data Steward

Algorithm charter

The Minister of Statistics has launched a draft Algorithm charter that commits government agencies to improving transparency and accountability in their use of algorithms over the next five years. This is a response to the recommendations from the Algorithm assessment report in 2018.

Draft algorithm charter for consultation [PDF 255 KB]

Draft algorithm charter for consultation [HTML]

Driving transparency, ethics and accountability in government use of algorithms - press release from Hon James Shaw.

Algorithm assessment report

Have your say on the draft algorithm charter

We’re asking for your feedback on the draft charter by 31 December 2019. Specifically:

  • Does the proposed text provide you with increased confidence in how the government uses algorithms?
  • Should the Charter apply only to operational algorithms?
  • Have we got the right balance to enable innovation, while retaining transparency?
  • Have we captured your specific concerns and expectations, and those of your whanau, community or organisation?

Please send your feedback to us via datalead@stats.govt.nz 

All communication is subject to the Official Information Act (1982) and may be published upon request. 

What are algorithms?

Algorithms are the automatic decision-making processes used by computer programmes to identify patterns in data. They have an essential role in supporting the services government provides, and help deliver new, innovative, and well-targeted policies for New Zealanders.

About our work on increasing algorithm transparency

In 2018 the New Zealand government undertook a review of how government agencies use algorithms to improve the lives of New Zealanders. The Algorithm assessment report aimed to ensure New Zealanders are informed about the use of government algorithms and the checks and balances that exist to manage their use.

The report drew on the Principles for safe and effective use of data and analytics developed by the Privacy Commissioner and the Government Chief Data Steward and made recommendations to improve transparency and accountability in government algorithm use.

Algorithm assessment report

Principles for safe and effective use of data and analytics

More work we are leading to respond to the recommendations from the Algorithm assessment report includes:

  • convening an independent Data Ethics Advisory Group to ensure that government agencies can seek external advice from privacy, ethics, and data experts.
  • beginning work to ensure that data ethics are embedded at all levels of the government analytics workforce, through improvements in training and professional development for data analysts and decision makers. 

Responding to the algorithm assessment [PDF 204 KB]

Responding to the algorithm assessment [HTML]

Data Ethics Advisory Group

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