Big data will outgrow its name, automatic decision making will become a matter of everyday life, social media will cause even more confusion. This is a good start. And what will happen to the data serving the citizen?

The year 2019 was another one in which the progress in predicting the future by artificial intelligence was reported. Because the achievements are rather modest so far, we have left the people to predict the future for the next 10 years. So, in this case us. With a good result? It will turn out in a few years.

Big Big Data

Big data is not a new phenomenon, because actions on large data sets have been undertaken for several years. But something clogged at some point and only the development of the “cloud” and technologies such as 5G and AI allow for efficient use of data.

Let us remind you that big data is “a term referring to large, variable and diverse data sets, whose processing and analysis is difficult but at the same time valuable, because it can lead to the acquisition of new knowledge.” Generally, the point is that, if there are enough of them, they cannot only reflect the actual state, but more importantly serve to construct alarmingly (of course, everything depends on the perspective and use of this potential) accurate models of future behavior of people, e.g. consumers of a given good or even to create human behavior. The importance of speed of data processing should also be emphasized, as this determines their usability to a high degree.

There is more and more data and we contribute to it ourselves. Taxi rides, presence on social networks, shopping (not only on the Internet) or even paying taxes through electronic bank account means that various entities have more and more information. And all other data that are worth processing from the point of view of business, consumers or the state to improve their services or simply to make life easier. More effective medical treatment, better forecasting of the economy and social phenomena, more effective control of public expenditure are just some of the benefits that data analysis systems will introduce. There are also risks in the form of “detachment” of data from humans and the resulting lack of control over what happens with these data.

In the coming decade, two existing restrictions on data processing will disappear. With the development of cloud computing we will be able to store and process unlimited data resources and do it very quickly. Finally, it will force the implementation of uniform standards so that data on various phenomena (e.g. transport, real estate and labor markets) can be effectively combined with each other. On the other hand, we still do not have (with the modest exception of the GDPR) dedicated legal solutions that will determine the rules for the collection and processing of non-personal data (not allowing identification of a particular person) by private companies. A framework should be introduced that would oblige companies to provide data on public issues (e.g. transport or air pollution) to competent authorities and more broadly to citizens.

Big data is just a way of using technology. It is neither bad nor good by default. It depends only on the methods of its control and usage and whether it will be a tool that makes life easier for people or (as the name suggests) a big problem.

We also know that effective analytics of large data sets will be supported by the development of artificial intelligence to which the next decade will belong.

Artificial intelligence automatically makes decisions

The world is thrilled by this phenomenon. What shape will the development of technology associated with artificial intelligence take? The more data is available, the more services will be assisted by cyber brains. While it is difficult to determine whether in the next decade artificial intelligence will be able to replace a man in all areas of his or her activity (rather it is doubtful), we will increasingly be unaware (or we will care less and less – once the secret of correspondence was one of the determinants of freedom, today we give it back without thinking and resistance) that we are subject to its influence at every step. From choosing what we read or watch on the internet, guessing that we feel like eating pizza, up to revealing that our consumer behavior carries the risk of bankruptcy, which may, as a result, qualify us to the worse category of citizens.

Artificial intelligence will also be increasingly implemented in the citizen state relations. It will be used, for example, to assess our “honesty” towards the state and one of the first implementations will be basing tax system on the analysis of our finances, settlements with contractors, consumer behavior, etc. Unfortunately, it also does not seem that the authorities will omit the temptation to use artificial intelligence to grant social benefits, to exercise the right to education and, finally, to prevent crime. These areas of state activity are associated with the greatest risks and are a field for discrimination against people and manipulation of public opinion also in the context of their political choices.

Importantly, the state will be forced to interact with the private sector, which will cope much better with technological development. As a consequence, we will be dealing with a greater privatization of public services than at present. By definition, the private sector will strive for so-called cost optimization. That is why it is very important to introduce proper regulations and to introduce them quickly. We cannot allow a situation in which the quality of the state’s operation and civil rights will not fit in someone’s financial balance sheet.

We should now build regulatory models which enforce transparency of processes and ensure that no one is subject to automatic and systemic discrimination. We already dealt with this topic in 2019, and now we have been involved in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence – CAHAI at the Council of Europe, to which we shared, together with other organizations, our comments on the regulatory environment for artificial intelligence. We will definitely intensify this work. We are planning to issue a public procurement guide for artificial intelligence and automatic decision-making in March, but we will all have a long walk. Artificial intelligence will surprise us. That is why it is so important to be prepared for these surprises.

Social media – new opening and new territories.

Observing the activities of competition regulators, it is hard to resist the impression that online platforms as we know them today will transform into more open systems that seemingly allow more competition on the market. More and more governments not only notice but also try to do something with the growing power of players such as Facebook (this topic has become one of the landmarks of the campaign of one of the most serious candidates for the office of the President of the United States – Elizabeth Warren). The question, however, is how effective these actions will be. Current legislative and antitrust systems are not keeping pace with the changes. If this does not change, no real control tools have a chance to appear. It should also be remembered that the market is not that big at all, and users expect consistent solutions for Poland, the United States or Taiwan rather than distributed archipelagos of Internet activity.

Social media will play an increasingly important role in citizen state relations. The idea of ​​”one-stop-shop” in dealing with the administration will take place through the most popular platforms, which will further increase their popularity. And in this case, countries will give up developing their communication tools and will transfer the burden of contact with citizens to private messengers. As in the case of artificial intelligence, here it will be necessary – either regulatively or on the basis of dedicated contracts – to define operating principles to guarantee the right to good administration, broad neutrality of technological solutions and protection of privacy.

What does this mean for citizens?

Although technology has always been an important component of the Foundation’s activities, the next decade means even greater involvement in this area. Regardless of which of the changes we anticipate, we will intensively care about the transparency of the state. We believe that regulations regarding automatic decision making and artificial intelligence should be developed and implemented as soon as possible, including the transparency of collected and processed data. Finally, we hope that the data on the state and the activities of its officers will be fully digitized, and by working on civic technologies this will allow us to better control the authorities.

However, we do not forget that what is most important and will not change in this and the following decades is our attachment to human rights and the fact that they are the same in real life as on the Internet.

The year 2019 was another one in which the progress in predicting the future by artificial intelligence was reported. Because the achievements are rather modest so far, we have left the people to predict the future for the next 10 years. So, in this case us. With a good result? It will turn out in a few years.