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New research project on algorithmic governance and democracy launched today

During the next ten years, a team of researchers from six Danish universities will explore the current usage of algorithms in Denmark with the aim of strengthening the democratic governance of algorithms and the engagement of citizens.
Photo from the conference featuring the project participants

Today marked the launch of the new research project and information project called "Algorithms, Data and Democracy" (ADD), which has received 100 million DKK in funding from the Velux Foundation and Willum Foundation and will run over the next ten years. The overall aim of the project is to strengthen democratic digital development through research, technological literacy, and public debate.

“For me, one of the biggest issues regarding algorithms and data is the fact that we have yet to truly begin to discuss it”, said Head of the research section of the project and Professor at the Department of Communication and Arts at Roskilde University, Sine Nørholm Just, at today’s online conference that formally launched the project.

In addition to Sine Nørholm Just, the ADD research team consists of Torben Elgaard Jensen, Christina Lioma, Maria Maistro, Helene Friis Ratner, Leonard Seabrooke, and Alf Rehn who will each be running a subproject, while Lisbeth Knudsen, strategic manager at Altinget and the tink thank Mandag Morgen, will be spearheading the outreach part of the project.

“It is a wakeup call without a snooze button”
The ADD launch conference was visited by prominent Danish tech personages such as Nana Bule, CEO of Microsoft Denmark, Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, Denmark’s tech ambassador, and Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission, who all emphasised both the need and importance of this project to ensure a well-functioning democracy in the future.

Vestager – famous for being the EU’s bulldog in the Union’s fight for more regulation on international tech corporations – emphasised a common public interest in regulating the use of algorithms.

“It is a wake-up call without a snooze button”, Vestager said, emphasising how the impacts of the technological developments in today’s society have been more extensive than imagined and it is important we begin to act now.

The three guests also all highlighted the importance of creating trust towards these technologies, but trust requires both knowledge and dialogue, underlining the value of the project not only as a research project but also as a way to open up a dialogue with the civil society.

A great collaborative opportunity
PI of DataPublics, Jannie Møller Hartley, was among the audience at today’s conference and she also left highly inspired, stating how:

“Algorithms are such an essential feature in datafication, because it is through the use of algorithms that Big Data can be related in previously unseen ways and I, therefore, look forward to following the project, which I’m sure will inform our project in important ways.”

An agreement of collaboration has also already been put in place between the two projects, where the DataPublics project will contribute with specific knowledge about the impacts of algorithms on the democratic role of journalism and the formation of publics in the media environment.

Find out more about the project
If you want to learn more you can visit the project website in Danish, where a video of today’s conference is also available for those who might have missed it. At the conference, they also said that an English site will be launched within the near future.