Insights Government publishes public sector algorithmic transparency standard

The Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office has developed an algorithmic transparency standard for government departments and public sector bodies with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

In its November 2020 review into bias in algorithmic decision-making, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) recommended that the Government place a mandatory transparency obligation on public sector organisations using algorithms to support significant decisions affecting individuals. The Government says that this call for transparency around the use of AI systems to help manage the risks associated with algorithmic decision-making has been strongly supported domestically and internationally. Transparency will bring necessary scrutiny to the role of algorithms in decision-making processes and help build public trust.

The Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) has worked closely with the CDEI to design the standard. It also consulted experts from across civil society and academia, as well as the public.

The standard is organised into two tiers. The first includes a short description of the algorithmic tool, including how and why it is being used, while the second includes more detailed information about how the tool works, the dataset/s that have been used to train the model and the level of human oversight. The Government says that the standard will help teams be meaningfully transparent about the way in which algorithmic tools are being used to support decisions, especially in cases where they might have a legal or economic impact on individuals.

The standard will be piloted by several government departments and public sector bodies in the coming months. Following the piloting phase, CDDO will review the standard based on feedback gathered and seek formal endorsement from the Data Standards Authority in 2022. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.