'Takaful 'poverty targeting algorithm unfairly excludes some poor Jordanians

Occurred: June 2023

The kingdom of Jordan was accused of using a 'flawed' algorithm to calculate the amount of aid for its citizens, excluding some  who are impoverished, hungry or otherwise struggling.

The Takaful 'poverty targeting' cash transfer algorithm run by Jordan's National Aid Fund and funded by the World Bank assesses whether aid applicants meet basic criteria such as whether families are headed by a Jordanian citizen and living under the poverty line. 

The algorithm estimates and ranks families' income and wealth using 57 socio-economic indicators. Families that own cars less than five years old or businesses worth at least 3,000 dinars (approximately USD 4,200) are automatically disqualified.

But, according to Human Rights Watch, the system is undermined by an opaque system based on inaccurate and unreliable data about people's finances, stereotypes about poverty, and discriminatory policies - notably against women - thereby depriving people of their rights to social security and resulting in increased social tensions and inequality.

The World Bank responded by saying it would refine the algorithm, whilst noting that Takaful has proven to be one of the most cost-effective poverty reduction programmes currently operating in Jordan.

Operator: Jordan National Aid Fund
Developer: The World Bank
Country: Jordan
Sector: Govt - welfare
Purpose: Calculate aid eligibility and distribution
Technology: Ranking algorithm
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - gender
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals