How we use algorithms

We use algorithms to improve our service to our clients. An algorithm is a step-by-step plan towards a certain goal. It is important to us that everyone gets what they are entitled to. Algorithms help us to do this.

An algorithm works in a similar way to preparing a meal. When you make a meal, you go through a number of fixed steps before it is ready to eat: you make a shopping list, you switch the oven on, you add the right herbs and spices, etc. In an automated process, all of these fixed steps taken together is called an algorithm.

An algorithm is a tool that helps us to do the following, for example:

  • calculate how much pension or benefit you can get
  • check whether the pension or benefit we are paying is correct
  • check whether someone is committing fraud
  • find out whether we could do our work better

Read some examples of how we use algorithms for the Dutch child benefit and AOW pension schemes

  1. child benefit

    The rules and legislation governing the Dutch child benefit scheme are translated into rules that our computers understand. If you have a second child, the algorithm works out the new amount of child benefit you can get automatically. You do not have to do or apply for anything.

  2. AOW pension

    An AOW pensioner who was living alone decides to start sharing a house with another adult. The amount of AOW pension a person receives goes down if they start sharing a household with 1 other adult. If they do not report this change to us, they will receive too much AOW pension. Our algorithms can discover this situation in time. This means we can avoid paying too much pension and having to ask the client to repay it.

We work with algorithms carefully and securely. We test algorithms extensively before we start using them. The tests include asking client panels whether they feel comfortable with the use of the algorithms.

We also take the privacy of our clients seriously when we process data using algorithms. We only use data that is clearly necessary to achieve a good result. We do this according to the conditions laid down in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Some algorithms perform simple calculations. More complicated algorithms that may have serious consequences for our clients are not programmed to produce a decision. Various checks are always carried out manually first. In these cases, an algorithm is only a tool that helps us take the right decision.