There are two ways to look at this new announcement by the Wellington Bureaucracy…
Leaked documents show the Ministry of Social Development preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications, in response to an expected tidal wave of unemployment created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
RNZ has received documents and emails which show the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) bracing for a massive increase in welfare applications.
One of the documents outlines the welfare agency’s approach to managing increased demand. “MSD is preparing for an increase of approximately 300,000 applications for benefits. This is primarily due to job loss from Covid-19.”
Another document has a chart showing a big spike in benefit applications from March 22 and examines how MSD can process the increased demand for the applications.
“How can we meet increased demand for jobseeker benefits from the end of May to ensure our clients that need it get paid quickly and without a negative customer experience,” it asks.
The documents suggest that one way of managing the increased processing load could be by using automated decision making.
The document says MSD is seeking to use new legislation to “lawfully begin Automated Decision Making of some types of benefit applications”.
The document says that Cabinet approval for this has been sought and legislation permitting it could be in place by May 15.
“So MSD could begin making lawful automated decisions from 16 May,” the document says.
…the first is positive.
The Government acknowledges the toxic culture within WINZ and its purposely built convoluted processes which are there to defeat vulnerable people and scare them off from applying for welfare are so bad that an automated process that removes decision making from the hands of petty WINZ staff sadists who gleefully treat beneficiaries poorly will be a better means of processing the tsunami of unemployment about to hit.
You could take the negative perspective that this is a dreadful step to use big data to make social policy decisions…
We see time and time again that discretion seems to be abused by Wellington Bureaucrats so trying to limit that to remove the bigotry and bias that make WINZ and MSD such toxic cultures might seem like a great idea, the problem is that life never fits squarely into the box ticking process so we hope public servants are trained well enough to recognise injustice rather than cause it.
So the temptation to allow AI to take over is great, but what if the AI is merely empowering the bigotry of bias rather than defeating it?
Oranga Tamariki is big data powered, tick enough boxes with the Wellington Orac and you are guilty of future crimes and can have your child removed.
…let’s see what happens on this front because the desire to limit staff employment and employ AI to this process has benefits and terrifying negatives.
Biased staff burnt out by the unending misery they see is one thing, a program that ruthlessly implements that bias is another.
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