Allocation algorithm wrongly places thousands of Italian teachers

Occurred: 2016

An algorithm used by the Italian government to allocate the location of thousands of teachers in 2016 resulted in many of them having to relocate to inappropriate locations.

Designed and developed by HP Enterprise and Finmeccanica to the tune of EUR 444,000, Italy's so-called 'Bueno Scuola' algorithm was meant to assess and score every teacher based criteria including their work experience and performance and their preferred destinations, and match them with the most appropriate vacancies.

However, teachers and their families were relocated across the country in an apparently more or less random manner, triggering uproar. A subsequent assessment of the system found it to be fully automated, 'unmanageable', full of bugs, and impossible to properly evaluate due to its opaque nature.

The incident triggered controversy about the purpose, design, and the effectiveness of the algorithm, and led to multiple legal complaints, lawsuits, and to the discontinuation of the system.

Operator: Italy Ministry of Education, Universities and Research
Developer: HP Enterprise Services Italia; Finmeccanica
Country: Italy
Sector: Education
Purpose: Allocate teacher positions
Technology: Resource allocation algorithm
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Effectiveness/value; Robustness; Ethics; Legal
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals