2016 December 9 11:15
1 h 20 min
Salle 1 (Iéna)
Open data and Open resources


(How) can How algorithmic governance can be a force of positive data disruption?

The main objectives of this workshop are to:

  1. Clarify and challenge the potential of algorithms and algorithmic decision-making to reshape and disrupt 20th Century models of governance through innovation case studies

  2. Discuss whether and how the future of and with algorithms can be crafted such that their development and deployment—from their design to their use, including control, evaluation, auditing, governance—be based on and foster core democratic values of accountability, transparency, participation, inclusion, and collaboration

  3. Identify what and who is required to leverage algorithms—in particular public good algorithms—towards these disruptions?

In doing so, we will focus on algorithms affecting public life and policies to maximize benefit for citizens, or ‘public good algorithms’, but the discussion aims to have broader applicability. Examples to be explored include models of addressing public safety and crime through applications such as predictive policing, use of algorithms in judicial and education systems, as well as new mechanisms and tools for facilitating access to sensitive private sector data while safeguarding privacy and fostering civic engagement such as the Open Algorithms (OPAL) project.

The workshop will bring together key experts in the field and will be designed to be highly participatory, with the aim to feed into a short paper with key conclusions and recommendations.

Algorithms have bad press. They seem to be everywhere yet often hidden and generally poorly understood by the general public. They are referred to as ‘black boxes’ concealing sophisticated and insidious mechanisms that crunch citizen-consumers’ data to make predictions that turn into prescriptions, and lock these subjects into their condition. Some argue they widen inequality and may threaten democracy. There is of course partial truths and needed caution abound the risks posed by a growing reliance on algorithms in various aspects and activities of our lives, particularly those created ‘on our behalf’ by corporations and governments.

However, the rise of algorithms may also provide a historical opportunity, both a practical way and moral obligation, to reengineer current power structures and decision-making processes within data-infused societies in positive ways. ‘Algovernance’ is both old and new—societies are governed by codified and standardized rules and mechanisms that use and produce information towards prediction and prescription.

In today’s digital world, we think and talk about different kinds of algorithms; those of the Big Data revolution. They feed on different inputs, seem less ‘human’, and have more immediate and possibly more powerful effects. At the same time, our contemporary world is highly unequal, unfair, and unstable. What role can algorithms play to make this world a better place? Can algorithms of the Big Data era and the opportunities, risks and questions they raise, be leveraged as forces of positive disruption? In the age of data, could algorithms be less fallible due to human error or bias and can be designed in a more robust manner to improve the human condition. Could they offer opportunities to question outcomes?

A focus on positive disruption moves away from discussions on whether algorithms are inherently good or bad, or whether machines can fully or incompletely express the range of human decision-making; positive disruptions involve elements that reinforce the use of algorithms as tools generating value while safeguarding minorities and edge cases from the realities of human biases. Additionally, features of conditions of these disruptions include: 1) greater participation of audiences for scrutiny and meaningful use; 2) greater access to information on input data and algorithms; and 3) further opportunities for education on data and computational literacy and other demand-driven efforts decreasing potential harms.

80 minute panel and group discussion with:

-Emmanuel Letouzé (Data-Pop Alliance & MIT Media Lab) -Dan Hammer (White House) -Natalie Shoup (OPAL Project) -David Chavalarias (Institute of Complex Systems of Paris-TBC) -Jacopo Staino (Fortia Financial Solutions)

Session schedule: 1. Introduction(s) and framing by Emmanuel Letouzé (Data-Pop Alliance & MIT Media Lab): 15mns

  1. Panel presentations and discussion: Dan Hammer (White House); Natalie Shoup (OPAL Project); -David Chavalarias (Institute of Complex Systems of Paris-TBC); Jacopo Staino (Fortia Financial Solutions): 35mns

  2. Moderated discussion with the audience: Will algorithms weaken or revive democratic governance?

Suggested readings: -White House Report, 2016: - -Book chapter: "The Tyranny of Data? The Bright and Dark Sides of Data-Driven Decision-Making for Social Good": -


Emmanuel Letouzé (Data-Pop Alliance & MIT Media Lab); Dan Hammer (White House); Natalie Shoup (OPAL Project); Jacopo Staino (Fortia Financial Solutions)

by Emmanuel Letouzé
from Data-Pop Alliance | MIT Media Lab

Emmanuel Letouzé is the Director and co-Founder of Data-Pop Alliance of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, MIT Media Lab, Overseas Development Institute and Flowminder Foundation. He is a also Visiting Scholar at MIT Media Lab. He is the author of UN Global Pulse’s White Paper “Big Data for Development” (2012). His research and work focus on Big Data’s application and implications for development broadly speaking. He worked as a Development Economist for UNDP in New York from 2006-09 on fiscal policy, post-conflict economic recovery and migration, and in 2000-04 in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the French Ministry of Finance as a technical assistant in public finance and official statistics. He holds a BA and an MA (Economic Demography) from Sciences Po Paris, an MA from Columbia University where he was a Fulbright Fellow, and a PhD from UC Berkeley. He also a political cartoonist for various publications and media as ‘Manu’.