Fair deployment of predictive analytics in Children's Services

by Dr Jonathan Bone working at Nesta responding to Algorithmic Social Justice

I am interested in exploring

Algorithms are being increasingly used across the public sector to make predictions about outcomes for individuals. While predictive analytics (PA) have the potential to help us make more effective decisions, remove human bias,and free-up staff time and ultimately help create better outcomes for citizens, concerns are frequently raised about the fairness of their deployment. Fairness concerns include those around discrimination, transparency and privacy.

While a lot of attention is paid to fairness in the development of these tools. For example, how to detect and remove bias from data or algorithms such that they don’t discriminate against protected groups. But a so far neglected aspect of the debate relates to fairness in the deployment of these tools in real life.

We plan on working closely with a council’s Children’s Services that are currently developing a PA tool to understand how these tools can be deployed in a fair way and create a toolkit to help others to do the same.

My motivation is

The fair deployment of predictive analytics is important because if these tools are not trusted they are likely to be rejected by both practitioners and citizens, and if used, ‘unfair’ tools could do more harm than good, replicating or even amplifying existing inequalities and disempowering both citizens and practitioners. Fairness judgments are typically highly context dependent meaning, for example, what’s deemed acceptable for a tool that predicts fire risk in buildings may be inexcusable for a tool that predicts childrens’ risk of abuse. Therefore, rather than a generic strategy for fair deployment of predictive analytics, what is needed is a toolkit which allows practitioners to engage with, evaluate and contest the procedures and outcomes of these tools.

Project focus

I want to focus on:

  • Recognition
  • Accountability & Care


I am looking for an academic partner in:

  • Social science (e.g. geography, politics, sociology)
  • Social Work

I am looking to work in these areas:

  • Social care
  • Children and young people
  • Families

Sandpit events

I am going to: London March, 6th 2020



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