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Value positions viewed through the lens of automated decision-making: The case of social services

Journal article
Authors Agneta Ranerup
Helle Zinner Henriksen
Published in Government Information Quarterly
Volume 36
Issue 4
ISSN 0740-624X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords Public values; Digitalization; Automated decision-making; Robotic process automation; e-Government; Social services
Subject categories Information Systems, Social aspects, Public Administration Studies, Human Aspects of ICT


As the use of digitalization and automated decision-making becomes more common in the public sector, civil servants and clients find themselves in an environment where automation and robot technology can be expected to make dramatic changes. Social service delivery in Trelleborg, Sweden, is the setting for a case study of the goals, policies, procedures, and responses to a change in how social assistance is delivered using automated decision-making. Interviews with politicians and professionals complemented with government documents and reports provide the empirical data for the analysis. Four value positions: Professionalism, Efficiency, Service, and Engagement, are used as the analytical framework. The findings reveal that the new technology in some respects has increased accountability, decreased costs, and enhanced efficiency, in association with a focus on citizen centricity. While the findings establish a congruence among instances of some value positions, a divergence is observed among others. Examples of divergence are professional knowledge vs. automated treatment, a decrease in costs vs. the need to share costs, and citizen trust vs. the lack of transparency. The study confirms the power of applying the value positions lens in e-Government research.

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