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Ethical Technology Adoption in Public Administration Services

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ETAPAS (Ethical Technology Adoption in Public Administration Services)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2022-01-31

Disruptive Technologies (DTs) have a great potential to boost the developing of new and more efficient Public Services. However, resource shortage in terms of competences and infrastructures, but also resistance to and lack of trust in technology, could hamper the full exploitation of this potential. Due to the recent uptake of the topic of ethical, social and legal issues related to DTs, practical guidelines to comprehensively assess the risks of adopting DTs in Public Administrations (PAs) are emerging only now, but they usually do not address the specific challenges and peculiarities of the Public Sector.
The ETAPAS project aims at accelerating a responsible adoption of DTs in the delivery of Public Services by developing a practical framework supported by a prototypical software platform, to offer to PAs a first-time assessment methodology to measure and mitigate the potential ethical, social, and legal risks.
The framework and the platform are co-designed with Public Bodies; lessons learnt and PAs’ feedback feeds into ETAPAS final output: a Governance Model to allow other public organisations to replicate the methodology and adopt innovative solutions while assessing, monitoring and mitigating associated risks.
The ETAPAS project’s mains objectives are the following:
• Define a conceptual Responsible Disruptive Technologies framework to assess and manage the ethical risks of DT-based applications in the Public Sector and their potential social and legal impacts
• Design and develop a software prototype that enables the ethical assessment of DTs in the Public Sector on the basis of the conceptual framework.
Phase 1 (M1-M12): Research & Design. Main activities carried out include:
• Collection of background information to research the most relevant ethical, social, and legal aspects of DTs for the Public Sector, identifying significant needs and open issues to inform the following activities
• Design of the conceptual components of the RDT Framework, namely the Code of Conduct (CoC) and the Legal Framework, based on the research results and the analysis of other examples of codes of conduct in similar contexts
• Translation of the conceptual components into real ethical risks, social impacts, and practical indicators. A set of risks and social impacts have been related to each identified ethical principle and relevant legal aspects and then associated with indicators to practically assess those risks and impacts. The CoC, the risks and the indicators have been submitted to the PAs’ stakeholders to ensure relevance and completeness
• Define a validation approach for the RDT framework. An empirical approach that, for each use case, allows for the identification of the specific risks and social impact that could arise in using DTs in the defined scenario, and of the consequences of not having a code of ethics for the adoption of such technologies. The validation includes what-if analyses, and guidelines to repeat the evaluation (ex-post evaluation) in case of already deployed DTs 
Phase 2 (M13-32): Test & Validation. Main activities carried out include:
• Selection, evaluation, and validation of the relevant ethical principles and indicators. The work foresees active engagement with PAs, to ensure that the RDT framework is pertinent to the use case perimeter and context - currently undergoing
• A qualitative assessment to collect and evaluate the qualitative indicators defined in the Research & Design Phase and validated at the previous activity. This activity entails the implementation of the measurement guidelines of the qualitative indicators (mainly related to social impacts). Qualitative assessments of the Disruptive Technology Application (DTA) are being carried out (before the development and adoption) and will continue during the whole DTA development - currently undergoing
• Finalisation and, if needed, refinement / integration of the development of the DTA. All of the pilots are involving the DTA’s stakeholders and users to ensure a human-centric approach and integrate the operationalization of the output of the relevant qualitative assessment results - currently undergoing
• A legal assessment of the use case aiming at leveraging the output of the Research & Design Phase. Preliminary activities have been carried out with the objective of determining what legal restrictions should be respected to ensure legal compliance - currently undergoing
Cross-Phase activities: Technological Platform & Communication, Dissemination & Exploitation. Main activities carried out include:
• Technological Platform: definition and design of the basic requirements for the ETAPAS Prototype, a prototype of a software platform to support the application of the ETAPAS RDT framework for responsible adoption of DTs. PAs member of the consortium have been actively involved in the design of the prototype as stakeholders, partaking in the identification of its core functionalities, while the technical partners of each of the four use cases tailored the needed connectors and data structures
• Communication, dissemination, and exploitation effort: extensive communication, dissemination, and exploitation activities, in order to maximize the impact of the ETAPAS project
The ETAPAS project will provide European Public Administrations with a systematic framework for assessing the potential ethical, social, or legal implications of deploying DT-enabled solutions in the Public Sector, placing accountability, fairness, and transparency as a critical factor.

The final expected results of the project include:
• The definition of the ethical and legal requirements in terms of principles for the adoption of DTs in the Public Sector.
• The definition of a practical approach to measure, control and monitor ethical risks and social impacts that the PAs can apply when adopting DTAs.
• The responsible development and adoption of DTAs into four real-life use cases by different PAs to derive lesson learnt.
• The test of the RDT Framework designed in the Research & Design phase on real-life cases, as well as its validation and improvement with specific inputs from the PAs member of the consortium.
• The definition of a Governance Model for PAs to deliver an ethical, social, legal adoption of DTs.
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