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Challenge accepted: how transparent can we be with our algorithms?

Algorithm charter blog post

On the 1st of June Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa helped host the first cross-agency community of practice (CoP) hui for the Algorithm Charter. The CoP was conceived at a workshop of Algorithm Charter signatories in March this year, where the consensus was that a CoP would help with sharing ideas and advice, discussing pain points, and comparing ‘what works’. It was also agreed at the workshop that the CoP needed to develop outputs, not just be a networking forum.

We hosted the hui with 34 participants (from 20 government agencies, many of whom are signatories to the Charter) and 2 speakers, spread across multiple locations.

Mark Sowden, Government Chief Data Steward (GCDS), opened the event and set the scene, noting the importance of being able to give New Zealanders confidence in how government agencies use algorithms. He gave his commitment, as GCDS, that he would encourage public sector chief executives to advocate for and support our mahi to implement the Algorithm Charter.

Our convenor, Graham Poppelwell from Inland Revenue, introduced our guest speaker: Laurence Millar from Transparency International NZ. Laurence both informed and challenged us, leaving us with recommendations to:

  • Be transparent: define the factors that influence a decision and make these visible to the people affected.
  • Have algorithmic accountability: ensure algorithm users are accountable for the outcome.
  • Adopt algorithmic auditability: give independent auditors access to machine learning systems and data.
  • Ensure the above is supported by regulation and judicial systems.

In smaller groups we then discussed, “what does good transparency in government use of algorithms look like?” With good representation of Algorithm Charter signatory agencies and the public service overall, we were not surprised at the engagement and passion of the participants in debating this question.

The CoP is now planning its next steps, which will focus on how to help the whole public sector make its algorithm use safer and more transparent.

If you’re interested in joining or speaking at the community of practice, please email:

For more information

Algorithm charter community of practice

Algorithm charter

Photo by Rishabh Dharmani on Unsplash.



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