Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Data Ethics: New Challenges For An Old Problem

Is it right to warn people when an algorithm predicts
they are likely to commit a crime? Should the use of a
facial recognition artificial intelligence tool that
identifies people as gay be banned? Is it right for a visa
application screening tool to be used before it can be
certified as not containing racial bias?

children be removed from families when a data analytics tool
suggests they are at risk of suffering abuse and neglect
even though they have not suffered yet? What notice should a
judge take of a machine prediction that someone will offend
while on bail, even when their gut instinct tells her that
he will not?

Welcome to the challenges of use of data
analytics applications by governments. Dr. Nicholas Agar, an
internationally renowned data ethicist from Victoria
University has joined forces with one of the world’s
leading universities, to design an intensive program on data
ethics and algorithmic governance

Dr. Agar said,
“Public officials need to work from a robust data ethics
model if they’re to properly support their elected leaders
through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Working with
Carnegie Mellon University Australia, we have designed an
executive education program that injects discipline into the
thought processes needed for ethical use of such tools.
I’m delighted that Dr. Craig Jones, Stats NZ Deputy Chief
Executive for Data System Leadership has agreed to speak at
the program.”

Governments’ experience with their
use of data analytics tools so far has had mixed results.
There have been many successes, but the number of failures
is growing rapidly. One tool used to detect welfare fraud
has brought down the Dutch Government while another similar
tool has cost the Australian Government over $1 billion in
compensation payments and extracted an apology from Prime
Minister Morrison.

Other failures have occurred in
areas as diverse as storing medical records through to
predictive exam results for school-leavers and predictive
land-use planning tools.

“Some of these have failed
because of ethical shortcomings while others have suffered
from democratic deficits. Technical inadequacy has been the
least important factor explain the failures. But this also
requires officials to also develop deeper understanding of
both the methods and their applications,” Dr. Agar

The course gives participants hands-on
experience with data analytics and data visualization tools
applied to actual datasets to bring them close to the
techniques and the issues associated with using

Guided by scholars and practitioners of policy,
analytics and ethics, participants will develop their own
robust framework for making ethical assessments. The course
draws heavily upon New Zealand’s own experiences before
concluding with a special session on balancing Noa (benefits
and opportunities) against Tapu (sensitivities and

Applications for Data
Ethics and Algorithmic Government

executive program close on June 4.


At the invitation
of the South Australian Government, CMU opened its
Australian campus in Adelaide in 2006. Located in the
historical International University Precinct in the
heritage-listed Torrens Building in Victoria Square, CMU was
the first international university to be established in
Australia. Our Australian campus marks CMU’s presence in
the Asia and Pacific region, making it a vital partner to
the CMU extension campuses in Silicon Valley, Rwanda, and

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