Digital systems of the government not suited for data-driven working

'The danger of data-driven work is that the digital system takes over and common sense gets snowed under.' - Michiel Overgaag

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The government is responsible for good service delivery. Digitization is a necessary support in this. The danger of data-driven work is that the digital system gets the upper hand and common sense gets snowed under. The government must therefore know better how to formulate the mandate to system builders.

Kafkaesque scenes

The possibilities of data control are endless. Algorithms can make connections at lightning speed and the system can follow protocols without error. But it must be applied in the right way. The human touch must always prevail in this.

No matter how well thought out the algorithms and protocols are; there is a chance that citizens or companies will fall between the cracks. If everything is handled manually and with personal attention, then exceptions will be noticed and the protocol can be deviated from this. But current digital systems are not equipped to do that. The result is the Kafkaesque scenes we saw with the earthquake file and with the benefits affair. The urge to automate everything to perfection puts the human mind at a distance.

Knowledge Gap
One reason for this is that the government leans too much on the software builders and systems vendors. This is mainly due to the knowledge gap between the two parties. Long-term contracts with the suppliers are also a complicating factor. This makes it difficult to make major changes in the meantime if it turns out that the result does not meet expectations.

But that is no excuse, because if the government lays down a clear vision, there are plenty of experts who can advise on the choice of systems, their processes and implementation. They can help formulate the brief to system builders, with the right criteria and requirements. In this way, you can create an environment where everything is automated, but where officials remain on top. And thus can intervene more easily when they see something going wrong. So they can make informed decisions and manually adjust a file.

The Tax Administration has long had the slogan "We can't make it more fun, we can make it easier." What we need to move towards is "we can make it easier, and also more careful". Then it will automatically become more fun!

Cause: 'Maxim Februari on the government's data drift'