Principles for the Digital Society; discussing guidelines for Municipalities

Blogpost for the AI-MAPS project by Evert Stamhuis
Lightbulb with smaller lightsources on the outside

On February 8, 2024, the AI MAPS team joined a discussion on the guidelines document “Principles for the Digital Society”. This document was produced by the intermunicipal association VNG and was embraced unanimously a couple of months ago by the Municipalities nationwide. The Hague Security Delta convened a selection of representatives from business, policymakers and academia to assess these guidelines, in relation to their actual implementation.

The first principle goes as follows (my translation): “Digitalisation requires democratic decision-making”. That exerted a lively discussion about ideals and reality. It was brought up that a democratic and participatory debate presupposes sufficient insight into the digital technologies, which is not what we can witness in practice. The average elected representative in the Municipal Council (Gemeenteraad) will not have the necessary expert-knowledge, let alone the members of the larger public. Is it not too presumptuous to talk about democratic legitimacy on these topics? Would it not be better to seek expert-legitimacy?

The answer to this question, as far as I am concerned, is negative. It is undeniably correct, that decision making around technology deployment requires a level of expert knowledge. That does not preclude the principle of democratic legitimacy. The council members and their constituents may not be as knowledgeable as the experts regarding the technological solution, but they still remain the experts regarding the problem. It is to be applauded that the very first principle in this document asserts the right of the residents and their political representatives to define whether there is a problem and to what extent a technological solution is appreciated against alternatives. Experts on solutions need to follow the experts on the problem, not the other way around.

Related content
Blogpost for the AI-MAPS project by Nanou van Iersel
Helix engagement with surveillance AI
Blogpost for the AI-MAPS project by Evert Stamhuis
Evert Stamhuis at the Winelands Conference 2023, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Related links
Overview blogposts | AI Maps

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes