Digital skills resource

In an increasingly digitized world, where data plays a central role in shaping public services and government operations, ethical considerations are paramount to building and maintaining public trust.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has taken a significant step forward in this direction with its publication of the “Good Practice Principles for Data Ethics in the Public Sector.” These principles underscore the importance of ethical data handling and utilization, promoting values-based actions that prioritize human rights and integrity in the realm of digital government.

The Essence of the Good Practice Principles

At the heart of the Good Practice Principles lies a dedication to fostering the ethical use of data within the public sector. The aim is to ensure that digital government initiatives, projects, products, and services are not only effective but also worthy of the trust citizens place in their governments. These principles provide a comprehensive framework to guide public officials, organizations, and decision-makers in embedding data ethics into every facet of their operations.

The Ten Good Practice Principles

The publication outlines ten foundational Good Practice Principles that collectively constitute a roadmap for implementing ethical data practices in the public sector:

  1. Manage data with integrity
  2. Be aware of and observe relevant government-wide arrangements for trustworthy data access, sharing and use
  3. Incorporate data ethical considerations into governmental, organisational and public sector decision-making processes 
  4. Monitor and retain control over data inputs, in particular those used to inform the development and training of AI systems, and adopt a risk-based approach to the automation of decisions
  5. Be specific about the purpose of data use, especially in the case of personal data
  6. Define boundaries for data access, sharing and use
  7. Be clear, inclusive and open
  8. Publish open data and source code
  9. Broaden individuals’ and collectives’ control over their data
  10. Be accountable and proactive in managing risks

Collaborative Development and Implementation

These Good Practice Principles are the result of collaboration within the OECD Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-leaders) and the efforts of the Thematic Group on Data-driven Public Sector. Spanning 2019 to 2020, this endeavor involved the OECD Digital Government and Data Unit and the Netherlands’ Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, along with contributions from OECD member and partner countries. The principles not only reflect observed practices but also intend to align with the OECD’s existing legal instruments and policy measures.

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