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Department of Law

CIVICA project explores preserving public values in digitised public services

Researcher at the EUI Department of Law, Ludivine Stewart, is part of the CIVICA project 'DigiPublicValues', exploring how public values can be preserved when the delivery of digitised public services is delegated to private actors. Nine months in, she describes her involvement in the project.

18 July 2023 | Research

EUI Law Researcher Ludivine Stewart

In the current context of technology and a post-pandemic world, the DigiPublicValues - Preserving Public Values in Privatised Digital Systems project stemmed "from the consideration that the public sector is increasingly turning to private companies when digitalising public services", explained Ludivine Stewart, a project investigator and researcher at the EUI Department of Law. However, the reliance on private actors poses some challenges regarding the protection of public values.

Building on case studies in justice, education, and migration, DigiPublicValues aims to identify the role of private digital providers in the provision of public services, analysing how it "affects public values, how the State is supposed to preserve those public values, and how this can be challenged", shared Stewart.

Stewart leads the case study on migration, as she has previously worked on this sector for her own research. She shared, "[DigiPublicValues] is very much connected to my own research project, which is devoted to the use of AI in asylum procedures in Europe. I had not considered so much the role of private actors, but this research has broadened my perspective, and really opened my eyes to the different actors involved and how this can shape the asylum procedure."

In a CIVICA Research blogpost on the topic of private tech providers in migration, Stewart wrote, "Among the various technologies implemented in the field of migration and asylum in Europe […], a significant number have been developed by private entities. […] Digitalisation and the deployment of new technologies have the potential to add another layer of complexity to the entanglement of public and private actors in migration."

Stewart also shared one aspect of the project that she found particularly challenging: "One of the main obstacles is access to information, to know what is going on, and this is where the work of NGOs, scholars, and journalists is essential to understand what is happening […]. Transparency, which we will look into later on the project, is crucial."

After two fruitful workshops, Stewart prepares for the next phase of the CIVICA Research project. She shared how the alliance enriched her experience and involvement in the project: "It's a fantastic collaboration, honestly, just to be able to bounce ideas and to have different perspectives on a subject, you learn so much. It is a very friendly environment, and it’s great that they involve younger scholars."

Law Professor Deirdre Curtin, who coordinates this CIVICA project at the EUI, highlighted that, "public administrations are increasingly involving private actors in a wide range of public governance using the digital (personal) information they have gathered to assess and take decisions. Insufficient attention has been paid to how this new way of governing affects traditional core public values such as participation, transparency, and accountability. With both a conceptual and applied focus, this group of engaged scholars creatively seeks pathways to readjust to these shifting boundaries."

'DigiPublicValues – Preserving Public Values in Privatised Digital Systems' is a CIVICA collaborative research project led by the London School of Economics and Political Science, together with the Hertie School, Bocconi University, and the EUI.

CIVICA Research brings together researchers from eight leading European universities in the social sciences to contribute knowledge and solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. The project aims to strengthen the research and innovation pillar of the European University alliance CIVICA. CIVICA Research is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Last update: 18 July 2023

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