Algorithms and Local Government

Year: 2021

Author: Laure de Vries

ISBN: 9789082506686

This paper investigates the rise of algorithms in government policy. Increasingly, algorithms (digital decision formulas), rather than people, decide how people are treated by the government. This is a trend identified in countries across the European Union. The paper focuses primarily on the use of algorithms at the municipal level in the Netherlands. This choice was made because little is currently known about this domain, while local Dutch governments lack knowledge and expertise, and decisions made at this level fundamentally affect people’s lives. Examples of this are education, healthcare, and social security.

Additionally, this paper will illustrate how the uncurbed use of algorithms may form a threat to important liberal values, such as equality, freedom, and rule of law. Therefore, a national, as well as EU-wide discussion on the use of algorithms in relation to the safeguarding of liberal values, is essential. A set of council questions is attached in the addendum, as this research demonstrates the difficulty of establishing to which degree municipalities use algorithms to assist decision-making. Local representatives in the Netherlands have submitted these questions to their council to develop a better understanding of the current situation.

Algorithms and Local Government