Trans-European Dialogue – TED2024 Conference

Digital governance in the age of AI:
evolving policies, regulations, and practices

7-8 March 2024, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Local organizer: University of Zagreb Faculty of Law


Professor Dr William Webster

Centre for Research into Information Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP)

Stirling Management School, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK

Title:  The Governance of AI and Big Data: Promises and Pitfalls for Public Policy and Services

This keynote presentation will provide an overview of a range of issues associated with emerging forms of governance surrounding the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data (BD) in public policy and service settings. These digitally mediated practices, which have transferred over from the commercial sector, offer the potential to make public services more efficient, automate public decision-making and provide new insights about societal issues that can be utilised to solve public policy issues. Yet, there are some unique nuanced characteristics of public services and the public service context, which means that their use will always be challenging. This presentation will explore these challenges through a definitional and conceptual assessment of these new technological practices and how they deviate from traditional informational processes in state apparatus. In doing so, the presentation will highlight the importance of different types of ‘data’, the importance of the origins and nature of data, as well as a reliable base of data for AI and BD to function effectively. This in turn has ramifications for administrative, procedural, accountability and oversight norms within the public sector. With this in mind, it is evident that caution is required to accommodate the widespread use of AI and DB in public service settings.

William Webster is Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Stirling Management School, University of Stirling. He is a Director of CRISP (the Centre for Research into Information Surveillance and Privacy), a research centre dedicated to the responsible use of new digital technologies and understanding the social impacts and consequences of technologically mediated surveillance. Professor Webster has research expertise in the policy processes, regulation and governance of CCTV, surveillance in everyday life, privacy and surveillance ethics, as well as public policy and service delivery relating to data protection, eGovernment, and electronic public services. He is currently co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Information Polity, co-chair of the Scottish Privacy Forum and co-chair of the EGPA (European Group of Public Administration) Permanent Study Group on eGovernment, and between 2009 and 2014 he led the Living in Surveillance Societies (LiSS) COST Action. He is also involved in a number of international research projects, including the ESRC SmartGov (Smart Governance of Sustainable Cities) project and the European Commission funded Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies (IRISS) and ASSERT projects. Professor Webster has recently completed commissioned research for Police Scotland and the Scottish Government examining the use of Body-worn Video cameras in policing contexts and on the oversight mechanisms for emerging technologies in law enforcement. Professor Webster has been a member of the strategy group of the UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner and has recently joined the Advisory Board of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner. At the University of Stirling, Professor Webster has held a number of leadership roles, including Head of the Division of Management, Work and Organization for five years (2014-9), and at other times the Divisional Research Coordinator, the Research Post-graduate Coordinator and Director of the Public Service Management MBA and Masters of Business and Management Research (MRes) Programmes.

Associate professor Dr Mila Gasco Hernandez

Department of Public Administration and Policy 

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University of Albany, SUNY, United States

Title:  Determinants of successful adoption and implementation of AI in public organizations

Despite the current popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) and a steady increase in  publications over time, few studies have investigated AI in public contexts. As a result, assumptions about the drivers,  challenges, and impacts of AI in government are far from conclusive. This presentation, which is based on empirical research conducted by the presenter, will focus on the determinants of successful adoption and implementation of AI in public organization. The presentation will distinguish clearly between the drivers of adoption and the determinants of success and will adopt a multidimensional perspective to understand the deployment of AI in public sector organizations. In addition, it will address some organizational routines capable of overcoming adoption and implementation challenges of AI systems in the public sector.

Mila Gasco-Hernandez holds a MBA and a Ph. D. in public policy evaluation (Award Enric Prat de la Riba granted to the best Ph. D. thesis on public management and administration, given by the School of Public Administration of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain).

Nowadays, she is the Research Director of the Center for Technology in Government as well as an Associate Professor at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, both at the University at Albany – SUNY. Before joining SUNY, Dr. Gasco-Hernandez served as a senior researcher at the Institute of Governance and Public Management (currently known as ESADEgov - Center for Public Governance) and the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Management, both at ESADE Business & Law School in Spain. Before that, she was a senior analyst at the International Institute on Governance of Catalonia and a professor in the Rovira Virgili University and the Pompeu Fabra University, both in Spain.

The main general research question at the center of Dr. Gasco-Hernandez’s research agenda is: why and how does technology-driven innovation happen in the public sector? Most of her research in the last seven years has focused on the topics of open government, public sector innovation, smart cities and communities, telework, and artificial intelligence in government. In these areas, she has published six books, more than 40 peer-reviewed articles, 18 peer-reviewed book chapters, and more than 50 peer-reviewed conference papers. She has been awarded more than 15 grants in external funding competitive calls and more than 25 consultancy/applied research projects with a wide variety of organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, the Mayor’s Office in Valencia (Venezuela), the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, the City Council and the Provincial Council of Barcelona, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the Latin American Centre on Management for Development, the World E-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments, the Inter-American Development Bank, or Google. She has also been a keynote speaker in more than 70 events worldwide.

Professor Dr Joep CROMPVOETS

Public Governance Institute

KU Leuven, Belgium

Title:  ‘Artificial Intelligence in the public sector – Hype or hit?’

The topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is omni-present these days. Numerous organizations (including public entities) cannot stop talking about AI tools, but it appears that only a limited number report using them. The key question of this keynote presentation is to figure out if AI can be currently considered as a hype or that it has already become mainstream technology (so a hit). If the current AI-adoption can be characterized as a hype, then it is wise that most public organisations do not invest much in AI and leave the investment over to entrepreneurial companies. But, if AI can be characterized as mainstream, then there is not much risk to invest in AI. Based on the scoring on four relevant key evaluation criteria for hype assessment (Expectation, Attention, Involvement of stakeholders, and Benefits), we are able to identify the current situation of AI-adoption in the public sector. The presentation starts with a short introduction about AI including relevant definitions, concepts and principles. The hype/mainstream assessment itself is achieved with the help of all the track participants. The presentation ends with a list of key conclusions.

Prof. Dr. Joep Crompvoets is a full professor at KU Leuven Public Governance Institute (Belgium), holding the chair on ‘information management in the public sector’, and is a senior researcher in the domains e-Governance, Digital Government, Public Sector Innovation, Interoperability, Emerging technologies in the public sector, open data and data Infrastructures. He is founder of the Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Public Sector Innovation and E-Governance (PIONEER) organized by KU Leuven, University of Münster (Germany) and Tallin University of Technology (Estonia) and vice-president research of EuroSDR, a European Spatial Data Research Network. He is also member of the KU Leuven Institutes on AI as well as Digital Society. Prof. Dr. Crompvoets has held faculty positions at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and Melbourne University (Australia) and was employed by CSIC IRNAS research institute in Spain. He wrote more than 400 publications in the fields of data science (with emphasis on data infrastructures), public sector information management, e-governance, digital transformation and is member of editorial boards of several scientific journals.

Associate professor Dr Marius Bertolucci

Institute of Public Management and Local Government (IMPGT), Research Centre in Management (CERGAM) 

University Aix-Marseille, France

Title:  ‘The AI and diminished man: the civil servants and citizens in the context of digital governance’

The presentation aims to intersect the reflections from our work L’Homme diminué par l’IA (The Diminished Human by AI) (Bertolucci, 2023), which focuses on AI in all its fields (art, love, democracy, work, etc.), the outcome of our state-of-the-art article on public management research and AI (Bertolucci, 2024), as well as an analysis of scandals and misuses of AI systems in public organizations.

If a civilization needs a religion to take shape, Humanism and the Enlightenment in decline have found their successor in the religion of data, the latest avatar of the sacred transferred to Technique as themed by Jacques Ellul. The question of the exit from the Enlightenment is raised as Kissinger, captivated by the subject of AI from 2015 until his last days, wrote. Let us remember that in What is Enlightenment?, Kant criticized the state of guardianship as the inability to use one's own understanding without the direction of another. Today, is this "other" not AI? The algorithmic accompaniment of life, denounced by philosopher Éric Sadin, is now embodied in Google's project to assign us a personal AI life coach... Our psyches are diminished by the confrontation with algorithms. And we let it happen, while our children now spend more time on recreational screens than at school. Even the French Council of State (Study on Trustworthy AI, August 30, 2022) is concerned about the dependency on algorithmic assistance that could lead to the atrophy of our cognitive abilities. After factory work destroyed bodies, screen work is destroying minds.

From the perspective of public management, we will propose to question the already documented risk of the emergence of what we call a civil servant diminished by AI, dependent on this imposed and inexplicable system, towards which, agents divest themselves of their professional judgment. Drawing on two of the biggest scandals of reckless use of AI in the public sector, Giest and Klievink (2022) demonstrate that the implementation of AI is not without friction, comparing the cases of the State of Michigan's employment agency with the MiDAS AI system and the Toeslagen agency for the childcare allowance system in the Netherlands. In both instances, serious repeated errors over years led to political and media scandals but, above all, to the devastation of the lives of the less fortunate. The Dutch government had to resign in 2021 following revelations about the 26,000 families who were indebted to the point that a thousand children were removed from their families. The Michigan agency, for its part, dismissed a third of its staff due to the complete automation of its fraud verification process with the MIDAS system (2013-2015), whose 93% error rate did not prevent it from operating for more than 2 years. In total, its implementation, reimbursements, and legal fees cost over 80 million dollars, which did not prevent the State of Michigan from hiring Deloitte in 2023 to implement another AI system for a cost of 78 million dollars.

On the level of agents, laboratory research on decision-making shows that individuals are less conscientious when assisted by AI and make more mistakes without it being visible from the outside (Cymek, Truckenbrodt & Onnasch, 2023), and that biased AI influences individuals' judgments even when it is withdrawn and, worse still, biases the decision of individuals who have nevertheless gained experience in a task by themselves (Vicente & Matute, 2023). Numerous empirical cases of AI systems in the public sector corroborate these findings. Unfortunately, what many surveys show, coming from associations (e.g., La Quadrature du Net in France) and journalists (e.g., Disclose in France), is that dozens of public actors in Europe misuse discriminatory and biased algorithms. We advocate a definition of AI in the public sector that embraces its integration at the societal and organizational level, taking into account the risks to citizens and the environment:

AI is a technical apparatus that translates its environment into data in order to infer structures and/or generate content that holds meaning, based on a predetermined objective. Within a public organization, this objective must be pertinent from a citizen, societal, and environmental perspective, while ensuring that oversight is possible by both organizations and society at large.

Marius Bertolucci is an associate professor of management science at the Institute of Public Management and Local Government, Research Centre in Management  (Institut de Management Public et Gouvernance Tertritoriale IMPGT / Centre d’Etudes et de Recherce en Gestion d’Aix-Marseille Université CERGAM) at the University of Aix-Marseille, France. 

His main research interests include AI, decision-making theory, and collective action in organisational setting, philosophy of management, public management and local government. 

His newest contribution in the field includes the book L’Homme diminué par l’IA (The diminished man by AI) Éditions Hermann (2023).

Associate professor Dr Mihael Mišo Mudrić

Department for Maritime and Transport Law

Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Title:  AI regulation in the European union: Taming the tiger through dialogues and trialogues

In principle, the digital age is characterized by the ACQU determination: Access to data, Control of data, Quality of data, and Use of data. In the digital arena, the traditional states are no longer competing amongst each other alone, but are joined by non-state, private actors whose power and influence often overshadows many contemporary nations. To that end, the regulation of digital arena is becoming increasingly important for the security and well-being of the society at large in the global context.

The upcoming European Act on Artificial Intelligence deals with a number of fundamental security threats to the society at large and fundamental European values, including the protection of human rights and the right to privacy. The Act, in its many iterations and amendments in a relative short legislative period, address a plethora of sensitive subjects such as the use of automated decision-making utilizing sensitive personal data, biometrical identification in real-time and post-remote operations of law enforcement bodies, use of generative AI tools to create deep fakes and enhance disinformation campaigns, utilization of various scoring systems powered by algorithms, and others. The European Commission, European Parliament and the Council have recently reached a political agreement concerning a number of items that were heavily debated during the last several years. The presentation will reflect some of the items on discussion agenda during the noted trialogue.

Mihael Mišo Mudrić (PhD) is an associate professor at the Department for Maritime and Transport Law, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb (scientific identification number 293722). He serves as an arbitrator at the Permanent Arbitration Court at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, in domestic and foreign arbitration. He has obtained a PhD degree at the Faculty of Law, University of Hamburg, being... being a Scholar of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg (Germany).

He is the founder of the Croatian Association of Insurance Law where he served for two terms as the Secretary General and a member of the Governing Board. He is the Vice President of Croatian Maritime Law Association. He is a member of the International Working Groups on the “Reformulation of the Lex Maritima” and “Maritime Law for Unmanned Ships“, and a member of the Standing Committee „CMI’s Standing Committee for Young Lawyers (Young CMI)“, Comité Maritime International (CMI). He is a member of the Scientific Council for State Administration, Judiciary and Rule of Law, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts; an expert associate of the Croatian Academy of Legal Sciences, and a member of the Governing Board of the Institute for Security Policies. He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the MARSAFENET project Cost action IS1105, and as a director of a Summer School on Maritime Law at the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik (Croatia).

He is the Head of Project “Legal Framework for Autonomous Vehicles”, financed by the University of Zagreb, and has previously participated in over 10 international scientific research projects financed by the Croatian Science Foundation, Ministry of Science and Education, EU Cost Action Programme, and others. In addition, he acts as an editor for legal and ethical framework for the use of advanced algorithms and personal data protection within the Horizon 2020 project “Intelligent Management of Processes, Ethics and Technology for Urban Safety”, (2020-2023).