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Government algorithm transparency

A cross-government review of how government uses algorithms to improve the lives of New Zealanders was undertaken in 2018. The review aimed to ensure New Zealanders are informed, and have confidence in how the government uses algorithms.

Image of the cover of the Algorithm Assessment ReportA report has been produced which presents the initial findings of the review.

Algorithm assessment report - HTML

Algorithm assessment report - full report [PDF 10.1 MB]

Algorithm assessment report - one-page summary [PDF 151 KB]

Led by the Government Chief Data Steward and Government Chief Digital Officer, the review initially focused on operational algorithms that result in, or inform, decisions that directly impact people or groups.

What are algorithms?

Algorithms are the automatic decision-making processes used by computer programmes to identify patterns in data. They have an essential role in supporting the services government provides, and help deliver new, innovative, and well-targeted policies for New Zealanders.

About the review

Fourteen government agencies self-assessed the algorithms they use to deliver their functions, focussing on areas most directly impacting decisions related to people.

The report summarises these self-assessments. Our analysis was underpinned by the Principles for Safe and Effective use of Data and Analytics.

Key findings

  • Humans, rather than computers, review and decide on almost all significant decisions made by government agencies.
  • There are opportunities for increased collaboration and sharing of good practice across government.

Key recommendations

  • Published information should explain how algorithms inform decisions affecting people.
  • The government commitment to Treaty-based partnership should include embedding a te ao Māori perspective into the development and use of algorithms.
  • A group of independent experts could be established to advise and guide agencies.

More information

Contact us

If you’d like more information, have a question, or want to provide feedback, please email datalead@stats.govt.nz.