Design for the values of accountability and transparency

J Hulstijn, B. Burgemeestre

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


If an organization is to be held accountable for its actions, the public need to know what happened. Organizations must therefore “open up” and provide evidence of performance to stakeholders, such as principals who have delegated tasks, employees, suppliers or clients, or regulators overseeing compliance. The social values of transparency – the tendency to be open in communication – and accountability – providing evidence of past actions – are crucial in this respect.

More and more aspects of the internal control systems, policies, and procedures to gather evidence of organizational performance are implemented by information systems. Business processes are executed and supported by software applications, which therefore effectively shape the behavior of the organization. Such applications are designed, unlike practices which generally grow. Therefore, it makes sense to take the core values of accountability and transparency explicitly into account during system development.

In this chapter we provide an account of the way in which transparency and accountability can be built into the design of business processes, internal controls, and specifically the software applications to support them. We propose to make trade-offs concerning core values explicit, using an approach called value-based argumentation. The approach is illustrated by a case study of the cooperation between providers of accounting software and the Dutch Tax and Customs Authority to develop a certificate, in order to improve the reliability of accounting software. Widespread adoption of the certificate is expected to stimulate accountability and indeed transparency in the retail sector.

Although the approach is developed and tested for designing software, the idea that trade-offs concerning core values can be made explicit by means of a critical dialogue is generic. We believe that any engineering discipline, like civil engineering, water management, or cyber security, could benefit from such a systematic approach to debating core values.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Ethics, Values, and Technological Design
Subtitle of host publicationSources, Theory, Values and Application Domains
EditorsJ van den Hoven, PE Vermaas, I van de Poel
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)9789400769694
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • value sensitive design
  • accountability
  • transparency


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