Jane Reichel

Full Professor of Administrative Law, Stockholm University.

Digitalization of the Swedish administration has been the center of attention for the Government and legislator for decades, with the explicit goal of being the «best in the world» at using the possibilities of digitalization. The Swedish public authorities were early adapters and have utilized automated decision-making procedures since the 1970’s. The effects on two areas central to Swedish constitutional and administrative law are addressed here: general administrative law, with a focus on administrative decision-making, and transparency rules and access to documents. The regulatory responses in the two areas differ. While concerns regarding the negative effects of digitalization on access to documents prompted the Swedish legislator to include digital recordings among documents encompassed by the right to access already in the 1970s, general administrative law has been adapted to a very limited extent. The Government has over the years commissioned several governmental enquiries on technical, societal, and legal challenges of digitalization of the administration, but the main conclusions in regard to the suitability of automated decision-making have been left to the administration and the courts. Two reasons can be identified. First, it has been a longstanding aim that administrative procedural rules are to be technology-neutral, in order not to become obsolete through future developments. Second, administrative authorities hold a strong and partially independent position in the Swedish constitutional setting, combined with a tradition of pragmatism. Authorities can thus be trusted to perform their decision-making in accordance with the law, whether the procedures are carried out manually, digitally, or by automated means. Swedish courts have thus far refrained from intervening. Still, it is clear that the Swedish administrative law landscape in automated decision-making contains several central lacunas, which ought to be filled in order to safeguard the principle of good administration and the rule of law.

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