In Australia politicians are becoming excited over the application of the use of the so called “big data” to be adopted by the mega government departments. The reason is it offers the prospect of streamlining the payments system and uncovering fraud or overpayments with subsequent savings to the public purse. My concerns is any such system which relies more heavily on artificial intelligence must contain an ethical basis and at some point build in “human intervention” so that we do not become slaves to technology rather than its master.Hence I think Judy Bamberger’s letter (Centrelink’s proposed robo –assistant a joke) - AFR 19th January 2017, is spot on in condemning the inappropriate use of algorithms to determine who owes Centrelink money. Might I suggest the same robotic approach be applied to assess past claims paid to MP’s under their travel allowances, with the prospect of a high recovery for the benefit of the public purse.
But innocent MP’s in receipt of such computer generated letters advising them of a potential past overpayment, and demanding an on online response within 21 days, with the prospect they may also need to justify such claims with travel documents and eligibility criteria, might feel justifiably aggrieved. The bottom line is these so called enquiry letters which were sent out “ en masse” and carried with them the warning any failure to respond will automatically triggers debt recovery action.Politicians and the management of Centrelink need to stop boasting about collecting another 300 million principally from the application of big data, if that practice relies heavily on robotics, already demonstrated to lead to numerous errors.
Voters do expect Centrelink to have in place a system to cross check to taxation records and to be diligent in uncovering any false claims. One also welcomes any sensible efficiency measures, but not to assign responsibility to mindless robotics, whose recent debacle is all too evident. This is not innovation but rather a total lack of integrity.