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Ethical Technology Adoption in Public Administration Services

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Empowering the public sector with disruptive technologies

A framework for the responsible use of disruptive technologies leads to market-ready modular tools tailored to the needs of public administrations and public service providers.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy

Disruptive technologies (DTs) such as AI, big data and robotics are highly effective solutions with several potential applications in the public sector. However, public administrations often struggle to swiftly adopt new technologies. The EU-funded ETAPAS project worked to address the legal and ethical impacts associated with the adoption of DTs by co-creating a comprehensive methodology and framework which were applied in practical testing across four use cases.

Responsible disruptive technology framework

Many factors contribute to public sector resistance to DTs. Lack of resources is one reason for the slow uptake. Another reason is a lack of trust in emerging technologies. Co-creation with the public sector allowed ETAPAS to build an ethical, user-friendly foundation for DT deployment. The responsible disruptive technology (RDT) framework is the conceptual basis of the project. Ethical considerations play a crucial role in guiding the public sector’s use of DTs, encompassing responsibilities in key areas such as privacy, safety and security, equity and transparency. For each ethical principle, the project determined potential outcomes associated with the technology in different use cases. The resulting RDT framework consists of several components built on the foundation of ethical principles. It includes an analysis of the European legal framework and a code of conduct. A risk framework details 34 risks in eight categories, and an indicator framework contains a questionnaire and tailored computational indicators. Built on an ethical foundation, ETAPAS developed software tools to support public administrators. These tools include the ETAPAS methodology and platform, which are market-ready. The governance model and platform are easy to use and provide a step-by-step approach. According to Giovanna Galasso, Technical Leader of the ETAPAS project: “During the project, many public administrations have shown their interest in ETAPAS, demonstrating that our solution responds to a real and widely felt need.”

Chatbots, robots, big data and AI

ETAPAS validated its solution through four use cases in Greece, Italy and Norway. Each pilot explored a different DT application. In Greece, AI was used to identify fake news. In Italy, the case study involved publication and dissemination of big data, including anonymised personal and sensitive information, held by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Also in Italy, humanoid robots assisted in patients’ medical recovery. In Norway, an AI-based chatbot called Kari answered citizens’ questions. Each use case was designed to pose different ethical concerns. Lack of transparency and the risk of false identification of fake news arises in the Greek pilot. In the big data study, the risk of releasing sensitive personal information is paramount. While using robots can speed recovery and mitigate medical costs, it raises ethical and legal concerns related to psychological health and data management. And while Kari’s knowledge base is among the largest in the world, many citizens shared personal concerns – in some cases expressing a desire to harm themselves. Such unanticipated use of the DT requires careful oversight to protect individuals. Built into the ETAPAS approach is a high valuation for identifying areas for improvement. These areas include streamlining feedback mechanisms, providing interfaces in languages other than English, staying abreast of emerging technologies and integrating DTs with existing processes. Project coordinator Roberta Lotti says: “By focusing on these key areas, ETAPAS can continue to evolve, becoming a valuable tool for public administrations to navigate the ethical, social and legal dimensions of disruptive technology deployment.”

Keywords

ETAPAS, AI, public sector, robots, big data, disruptive technologies, responsible disruptive technology framework, chatbots

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