The Future of Data Freedom

Report: The launch of targeted automatic subsidies is waiting for the legislator to act

The brief report of the Foresight Centre “Roadmap of Targeted Automatic Subsidies in Estonia” shows that if the government used the data kept in its registers, it would be possible to pay family and energy subsidies automatically and only to those who really need them, and to make the use of finances and the activities of the state more effective. Implementation of the subsidies based on automated data analysis and automatic decisions is mainly hindered by the restrictions in place on the use of data.

Isa ja laps. foto Ellaby

“The data that Estonia as a digital country is collecting in its databases could be used to make the use of the public sector resources more effective. In order to achieve that, it is necessary to create in our legal space a legislative basis for adopting automatic administrative acts, to ground the risks related to automatic decisions, and to safeguard the rights of people subject to automatic decisions,” expert of the Foresight Centre Johanna Vallistu said. “At present, several subsidies are general because, among other things, the data analysis necessary to sort out those who need help is labour-intensive and often hindered by the restrictions on the linking of data. Creating the necessary legislative preconditions for automatic decisions would allow to automate processes as well as to better target the subsidies.”

In Vallistu’s opinion, the adoption of automatic decisions based on data would help increase the efficiency of the state. “For example, the qualification for subsidies could be ascertained by an algorithm that compares the relevant data in different databases,” Vallistu said. “However, as matters stand, even if the necessary data are available in the databases, their actual use is administratively, technologically and legally restricted.”

Vallistu explained that the roadmap for the implementation of automatic subsidies described in the brief report sets out the main steps the legislature and the state agencies responsible for subsidies should take so that it would be possible to start the implementation of targeted automatic decisions. “Although transfer to targeted automatic subsidies may seem easy at first glance, because the data are available in national registers and databases, it is necessary to overcome the obstacles relating to datasets, the obstacles posed by administrative law and the obstacles arising from data protection law,” she pointed out.

The brief report “Roadmap of Targeted Automatic Subsidies in Estonia” focuses on identifying legislative restrictions and the possibilities to overcome them on the basis of examples relating to automatic targeted family benefits and energy subsidies.

Read the brief report HERE (in Estonian).

In 2022, the study projects of the Foresight Centre include the future of the freedom of information, which examines the key development trends and options in the further development of Estonia’s data economy and data-driven governance until 2035. One component in monitoring the freedom of information is also the study of the use of public information, which explores the legal and practical usability of public information in Estonia.

The Foresight Centre is a think tank at the Riigikogu that analyses long-term developments in society and economy. The Centre conducts research projects to analyse the long-term developments in the Estonian society, and to identify new trends and development directions.

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