One example of how VDAB is putting AI to work is in its job-matching tool for job seekers, which uses deep-learning. Job search results are now more targeted, and align more closely to the aptitudes, talents, and preferences of the job seekers.

However, the use of data has its risks. For example, the job matching application is based on real data from the labour market – which may contain patterns that VDAB does not want to support. For example, in certain sectors, there is a clearly unequal gender representation. This is based more on cultural and social elements than an intrinsic correlation between gender and affinity for the sectors. However, these patterns could result in, men, for example, getting fewer job suggestions in healthcare or education, while women might receive fewer suggestions for jobs in IT. This result would only further entrench the undesired pattern.

Keeping ethics at the front, with the Ethics Council

To reduce risks of this type, VDAB developed data models that are robust against these types of patterns. And to keep ethical considerations at the forefront, VDAB set up an Ethics Council to provide advice and monitor how AI is being applied.

“I am honoured to be asked to join VDAB’s Ethics Council. AI is an important topic for all of us – end users, business users and organisations alike. Not only can we help support the important work of VDAB, but the experiences and discussions of the council will inform our insight at Beltug, thereby providing added value for all our members.” Danielle Jacobs, CEO Beltug

The Council’s approach is based on three fundamental principles:

  1. Transparency: providing clarity and insight into the working methods used
  2. Trust: evaluating and testing AI systems every step of the way, and ensuring fair and responsible results
  3. Beneficial for everyone: VDAB strives to develop applications that benefit both VDAB and the end users

The VDAB Ethics Council, with Jan De Schepper as President, is composed of three internal and four external experts, who bring a mix of academic, legal and operational expertise. Danielle Jacobs, CEO Beltug, has accepted a place on the Council.