MetaDAMA - Data Management in the Nordics

2#19 - Datafication of Public Administration (Nor)

June 19, 2023 Winfried Etzel VP Activities DAMA Norway Season 2 Episode 19
MetaDAMA - Data Management in the Nordics
2#19 - Datafication of Public Administration (Nor)
Show Notes

"It's about taking a step back to ask yourself: Should we even have a data-driven system for this?" («Det handler om å ta et steg tilbake for å spørre seg: Skal vi i det hele tatt ha et data-drevent system på dette her?»)

We finish season 2 with a though-provoking episode, to maybe start som debate about data-driven public administration.

Lisa Reutter is PostDoc at the University of Copenhagen connected to a project called: «Datafied Living». We talk about the importance of Social Science in Data, and how data is intertwined with our lives. Lisa is researching in the field of «Critical data and algorithm studies», at the interplay between tech, data and society.

Here are my key takeaways:

Data in Public Administration

  • For a modern state to function properly and to ensure citizen rights, services, security, etc is provided the state needs data.
  • Data Management by the state for its citizens is not a new concept but has a long historical foundation.
  • During the last years we use more, different and new data in administrative processes, and enhance technological development and a tool box to derive value from data
  • Public administration has had a monopoly over management and ownership for citizen data. But this has been challenged by private companies.
  • Data-driven systems in public sector are not there for profit, but to create value for society. Therefor they need to be build on and with the purpose to enhance our democratic values.


  • Norway and other Scandinavian countries have established national registers to manage and administrate society.
  • There is a reason why registers are not unified in Norway, and this is to ensure a balance of powers
  • The opposite example, of what can happen if a state collects information on its citizens without boundaries, is to be found in the GDR (Eastern Germany)
  • If all data of all aspects of your life are collected one place, it is really easy to misuse this data
  • Through data a state could see, predict, and control the behaviors of citizens.

The public debate about data-driven

  • Discussions can and should be about what data are we collecting, where do we store data, what are we using data for, who could and should have access to that data, etc.
  • Even with public debate about data use in public administration, limits and boundaries can never be defined clearly. Also because this is individual and relative to context.
  • Datafication is a political act. The citizens need to be involved in the process of technological advancement and intelligent use of data.
  • The debate around «data-driven public administration» in Norway, has not included the public actively.

Customer-centric vs. data-as-an-asset vs. democratizing data

  • Is there a rhetorical ambiguity between being customer-centric and data-as-an-asset?
  • Data democratization demands that citizens have to use their time, resources and energy to ensure that public administration is working correctly.
  • Is making data available leading to commercial parties capitalizing on that data and building solutions, rather than creating transparency for citizens?
  • The right education and skills are important, but it needs to be available and attainable for all parts of society.
  • Data Literacy is an own subject that is in dispute about what it should contain.

We need to understand, that this has implications on how we...

1. Trust in the state

2. Trade - what do I give my data for? What do I get in return?

3. Build in accepted ways

4.  Weight opportunities against risk

5. Ensure that the responsibility for understanding does not lie with the citizen alone

6. Gain knowledge, and how everyone can get it

7. Should invite for debate