If knowledge is power, ignorance is impotence. Citizens, consumers, investors, and patients all need trustworthy information when we vote, making purchasing decisions, buy stocks or other assets, or choose a surgeon, medical device, nursing home, or dialysis center. That’s why … Continue reading
On the morning of March 16, the Data Coalition hosted a public forum on how to use artificial intelligence in public sector regulation. As the Coalition notes, Congress enacted the National AI Initiative Act and the AI in Government Act in 2020, which required the Biden administration to launch of the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) Task Force. The following remarks focus upon how open government can prevent digital redlining, as prepared for delivery in six minutes or less.
Today is National Freedom of Information Day, chosen in honor of President James Madison’s birthday, often cited as a founding father of open government in the United States. https://themarkup.org/denied/2021/08/25/the-secret-bias-hidden-in-mortgage-approval-algorithms
This public forum is happening during Sunshine Week, when we celebrate the public’s right to know and access to information.
That gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk more about how government transparency and disclosure can accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) while protecting privacy, security, and human rights.
As law becomes encoded by technology, code has become law.
Accelerating AI in the public sector must not come at the expense of human rights, civil liberties, or the public’s right to know, which are central to democratic societies.
AI will be part of everyday life, but public sector algorithms have special importance: people don’t have a choice. From making unemployment decisions to getting loans to parole hearings to education and work, code is going to govern how we live, work, play, learn, and govern.
Public sector algorithms must be auditable to ensure that existing inequity and injustice is not codified in a rush to modernize.
Open data and open source code can reveal and check algorithmic bias and racial, gender, or religious discrimination in public services, accommodations, and access to information.
Over the last five years, other nations have enacted laws and regulations that focus on the transparency, participation, and accountability of public sector algorithms, from France to the Netherlands to New Zealand.
In France, the Digital Republic Law mandates transparency of government-used algorithms. Public agencies are required to publicly list any algorithmic tools they use, and to publish their rules.
Imagine Congress ordering federal agencies to do so at Code.gov, and OMB forcing the issue.
Imagine an explicit extension of the Freedom of Information Act to code and meta data.
Imagine investment in the human and technical capacity of the SEC, FEC, & FTC to audit the use of AI across societies.
Imagine every city, state and democratic nation joining a global open algorithms network and committing to engaging everyone governed by code and upholding the rights of the people in these new systems.
Imagine a democratic vision for AI in the public sector that centers on human rights and the needs of the public to know in order to be self-governing, instead of authoritarian coercion, control, secrecy, opacity, and secrecy
The federal data strategy was part of the 4th National Action Plan for Open Government for the Open Government Partnership.
How many of you have ever heard of it? Please ask your colleagues in government when the General Services Administration and White House will begin co-creating a 5th plan that includes commitments on AI and democracy.
This Sunshine Week, please commit to pushing our government of, by, and for the people to collaborate WITH the people in developing legislation and rules that govern its use, codifying our “bill of rights” into the technologies we develop and use every day.
On December 15th, President Joe Biden delivered pre-recorded remarks to the Open Government Partnership Summit, an international conference that convened dozens of nations in South Korea to discuss the past, present, and future of open government. It’s not clear how … Continue reading
Dear Secretary Psaki and the Office of the Press Secretary, My name is Alexander B Howard; you may have noticed me tweeting at you this past couple months during the transition and now the administration. I came to DC over … Continue reading
Did YOU know the USA has a Federal Data Strategy? Or that it’s part of National US Plan for Open Government? This President and White House should have told you, instead of failing to engage Americans. I participated in another … Continue reading
Digital democracy reforms tends to advance or retreat in fits and starts, but when exigent circumstances require more from us and our governments, change can happen unexpectedly. On May 26, I requested an absentee ballot, intending to cast my vote … Continue reading
There’s much to be learned from the experience of the city Gainesville, Florida, where a commissioners voted in 2014 to publish the public’s email correspondence with them and the mayor online.
More than five years on, the city government and its residents have are ground zero for an tumultuous experiment in hyper-transparent government in the 21st century, as Brad Harper reports for the Montgomery Advertiser.
It’s hard not to read this story and immediately see a core flaw in the design of this digital governance system: the city government is violating the public’s expectation of privacy by publishing email online.
“Smart cities” will look foolish if they adopt hyper-transparent government without first ensuring the public they serve understands whether their interactions with city government will be records and published online.
Unexpected sunshine will also dissolve public trust if there’s a big gap between the public’s expectations of privacy and the radical transparency that comes from publishing the emails residents send to agencies online.
Residents should be offered multiple digital options for interacting with governments. In addition to exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and petition on the phone, in written communications with a given government, or in person at hearing or town halls, city (and state) governments should break down three broad categories of inquiries into different channels:
Emergency Requests: Emergency calls go to 911 from all other channels. Calls to 911 are recorded but private by default. Calls should not be disclosed online without human review.
Service Requests: Non-emergency requests should go 311, through a city call center or through 311 system. Open data with 311 requests is public by default and are disclosed online in real-time.
Information Requests: People looking for information should be able to find a city website through a Web search or social media. A city.gov should use a /open page that includes open data, news, contact information for agencies and public information officers, and a virtual agent or “chat bot” to guide their search.
If proactive disclosures aren’t sufficient, then there should be way to make Freedom of Information Act requests under the law if the information people seek is not online. But public correspondence with agencies should be private by default.
Yesterday, the United States Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee met at the National Archives in Washington and approved a series of recommendations that would, if implemented, dramatically improve public access to public information. And in May, it will consider … Continue reading
During Sunshine Week in March 2019, members of the Senate Judiciary sent a letter to the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) that asked for information about the state of the Freedom of Information Act, noting a lack of … Continue reading
Elon University and Pew Research Center asked experts what the impact of digital disruption will be upon democracy in 2030: Perspectives differ! About half predicted that humans will use technology to weaken democracy over the next decade, with concerns grounded … Continue reading