This project is part of the collaborative research projects initiative of CIVICA Research and it is co-financed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
The project ‘Preserving Public Values in Privatised Digital Systems’ (DigiPublicValues) explores how public values can be preserved when the delivery of digitized public services is delegated to private actors. It moves from the observation that States increasingly rely on private parties for infrastructure or service provision when they digitize public services. Digital public-private partnerships shape the exercise of State powers and individual entitlements. This phenomenon has not yet been subject to significant scholarly scrutiny, with research to date focusing primarily on the privatized regulatory powers of digital platforms when, for instance, they engage in rights balancing through their content moderation policies.
Focusing on justice (Italy and England), education (England) and migration and asylum (EU) sectors, the project identifies the role of private digital providers in the provision of public services, and it analyses the democratic consequences through an interdisciplinary lens. It addresses mechanisms to protect public values and ensure digital sovereignty in the context of digital public-private partnerships in the selected sectors.
The planned activities reflect both the practical and conceptual ambitions of the project as well as its progression throughout the project duration. The research agenda will be developed through three workshops. The first workshop will provide the conceptual orientation for the project by identifying the democratic values at stake when private actors become enmeshed in the provision of public services. The second workshop will apply this conceptual framework to the three chosen fields, allowing for comparative analysis of similarities and differences. The third workshop will consolidate our findings and prepare them for dissemination to our target audiences. The activities will be supported by research assistance and research exchanges between project members at the partner institutions.
In terms of results, the project will increase awareness of the ways in which private digital actors are embedded in the delivery of public services and the challenges this poses for democratic values. Second, the project will contribute to our understanding of the societal role played by dominant digital actors in our daily lives. This understanding will be of interest to law and policymakers as well as the general public.