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Three statements three opinions: Astrid Boeijen

Responsible digital leadership comes with major ethical responsibility. The importance of being competitive should never overshadow this.

“Although the CBS does not have commercial interests, all of the organizations that work with data have major ethical responsibilities. Part of this for us is the enormous quantity of security measures we have to take to protect data. Besides, CBS statistics are anonymized which means they are not traceable to people and companies. This policy hasn’t changed in the more than 100 years since the CBS was founded. At the same time, a good dialog on the legislation and regulations between citizens, business, government and other organizations is important now. We need rules that protect the data and privacy of citizens on the one hand, while at the same time offering possibilities to develop products and services with the aid of (big) data.”

Guaranteeing people’s decision-making authority seems impossible, given the advancing developments of artificial intelligence and robotics.

“I foresee changes in the judiciary, accountancy and the medical world among others in which artificial intelligence is capable of selecting the best options, but where the ultimate decisions are made by people, or at any rate, in the foreseeable future. AI offers incredible opportunities. Examples include better diagnoses and treatment plans since artificial intelligence can search more databases and do so faster than a doctor can. The risks that go along with this must be monitored and streamlined by legislation and regulations. Providing insight into the increasingly more complex algorithms will not always be possible in the future. It is crucial to have satisfactory control and other mechanisms in place so that people can rely on the conclusions reached by the data.”

If Dutch companies are already having trouble getting their “ducks in a row” for the new European privacy law, then responsible digital leadership is a long way off.

“Certain aspects need to be thought through even more carefully; both in terms of their meaning and the system within which we work together on the basis of data. However, I don’t believe that responsible digital leadership is that far off. I have seen a lot of parties that are assuming their responsibilities and are working hard on this, with a few exceptions of course. Incidentally, negative exceptions immediately lead to a gigantic social debate worldwide, such as we recently saw with Facebook. Organizations and people are being held socially accountable. In other words, this mechanism works. Of course, the damage has already been done, but prevention is always the best option. You can’t prevent everything though.”

Astrid Boeijen (1972)
Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS)
General Director for Data Collection and branch director in Heerlen, also responsible for the Center for Big Data Statistics

Author: Gwen Teo, Translation: Allison Klein