Research Seminar in Sociology of Law with Sofia Ranchordás
The Sociology of Law Department arranges a series of research seminars inviting local and international researchers conducting state-of-the-art research within various areas of law and society.
Digital government aims to promote efficiency, reduce bureaucracy, and improve communication between citizens and governments. For citizens with average digital and literacy skills, stable social, personal, and economic conditions, digital government has facilitated the exercise of rights and duties before government (e.g., filling in tax returns). However, this is not always true for citizens placed in vulnerable situations (e.g., low income, the sudden death of loved ones, low digital literacy, illness) who are not always able to engage independently with digital technology. Despite the abundant public policy, communication and cultural sciences literature on digital exclusion, existing rules and principles of public law (e.g., good administration) still do not account for administrative vulnerability, that is, the inability to exercise rights on equal terms. We know little about how administrative vulnerability affects the legal position of citizens, how government fails them, and how to improve it. What we know—particularly in light of the so-called Dutch Childcare Benefits scandal – Toeslagenaffaire—is that this problem is urgent because vulnerable citizens get lost in complex administrative procedures. Their mistakes are easily regarded as signs of potential fraud and mistakenly sanctioned as such.
The key research question of this project is: How should digital government and administrative law account for administrative vulnerability in the design and application of administrative decision-making procedures? With four interdisciplinary subprojects, I aim to (1) develop a new typology of vulnerability; (2) assess how digital government impacts the legal position of citizens; (3) identify how citizens can be empowered to fully exercise their rights before government, becoming digital citizens; (4) select best practices for inclusive digital government, drawing on insights from comparable jurisdictions. The research group will combine two projects (one primarily focused on addressing the research question in the Netherlands with a comparative lens that looks at Denmark and Estonia; another focused on Sweden and its comparison to other Scandinavian countries).
Sofia Ranchordas is an incoming Full Professor of Administrative Law at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and a Professor of Law, Innovation, and Sustainability at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome. Her research agenda is focused on two interconnected topics: (i) regulatory policy and the advancement of innovation; (ii) the impact of digital transformations on inequality.
In 2022, she received a personal research grant from the Dutch Research Council for her research on administrative vulnerability and a grant from the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program - Humanities and Society (WASP-HS) to supervise and conduct research on government automation and vulnerability in Scandinavia for five years as a Guest professor at the Sociology of Law Department and the project “Vulnerability in the Automated State”.