Algorithmic Disqualification: Fighting Poverty While Excluding the Needy

An algorithm designed to fight poverty disqualifies people in need

A World Bank-funded algorithm in Jordan, called Takaful, may be excluding eligible families from receiving financial assistance, according to a new study by Human Rights Watch. Takaful ranks applicants based on 57 socio-economic indicators, but applicants argue that the algorithm oversimplifies their economic situation and does not reflect reality. The system has cost over $1 billion and is being replicated in eight other countries. The study found fundamental flaws in the system, including the use of unreliable indicators such as water and electricity consumption. The algorithm also appears to reinforce gender discrimination by considering the size of the household, disadvantaging women who cannot pass citizenship to non-citizen spouses. The report, based on 70 interviews, highlights the need for greater transparency in government programs that use algorithmic decision-making. Researchers warn that algorithms in welfare systems often exclude those who need assistance the most. The World Bank, which funded the program, plans to release additional information in July.

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