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PhD in Sovereign Norm-Compliant Cloud Services for the Digital Government

Posted 16 Jul 2024
Work experience
1 to 3 years
Full-time / part-time
Job function
€2,770 - €3,539 per month
Degree level
Required languages
English (Fluent)
Dutch (Fluent)
31 Jul 2024 00:00

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Do you enjoy working in an interdisciplinary research setting working on cutting edge technologies and do you want to expand your knowledge on state-of-the-art AI, Normative Systems and data-sharing and data-processing infrastructures? The Informatics Institute is looking for an ambitious PhD candidate to work on Sovereign Norm-Compliant Cloud Services for the Digital Government. Your research is part of the Complex Cyber Infrastructures (CCI) research group.

What are you going to do?

Background and Motivation

For the growing need of enabling remote access to public services, as well as for the need of setting-up effective and cost-efficient collaborations, governments are increasingly levering cloud computing technologies. In principle, cloud computing technologies have a great potential for governments, as they offer many advantages, particularly with respect to scalability and continuity of public services. However, the adoption of cloud services by governments also poses significant challenges related to data privacy, purposeful processing, and other legal demands, as well as requirements concerning security and sovereignty. Additionally, the lack of accountability in cloud service provisioning and management forms a potential political risk for shared service centres responsible for organizing the deployment of cloud services.

Therefore, there is a need to investigate how cloud services for the digital government can be leveraged to enable digital sovereignty, legal compliance, data safety and security, and how shared service centres should hold the partner organisations providing cloud service technologies accountable, particularly for delivering the required cloud services to their clients (both governmental agencies as well as citizens).

Previous research conducted at the University of Amsterdam (see Koning, R. (2020). “Automating network security”, and Makkes, M.X. (2018). “Virtual internets”) has shown the power of software defined infrastructures, using software scripts that control the entire lifecycle. This approach has great potential as it allows for safe and secure (governmental) infrastructures that, in combination with certified service-components, can result in infrastructures with controllable characteristics for which their deployers can take (legal) responsibility.

Recent developments in AI are promissing. Particularly state-of-the-art

techniques in Generative AI and the application of Large Language Models (LLMs) is potentially useful for software generation. This potentially enables faster and more effective coding by means of adequate prompting. In this research we aim to study how the application of Generative AI methods can help to construct software-defined infrastructures, normative specifications and other requirements.

In this research, the PhD candidate will investigate these state-of-the-art techniques for generating norm-compliant infrastructures that support recent digital government initiatives, particularly governmental shared services. The research will also explore the challenges that come with legal and ethical considerations related to the use of Generative AI and Large Language Models in digital government initiatives.

The expected outcome of the research is to determine the potential of Generative AI and Large Language Models as a means for government officials to specify the tasks of the services in the cloud. The research will also provide a demonstrator and recommendations on the legal and ethical use of Generative AI and Large Language Models in the context of digital government initiatives, particularly governmental shared services. The research outcomes will be of interest to policymakers, government officials, cloud service providers, and researchers in the field of digital government and artificial intelligence.

Research Objectives: The primary objective of this research is to explore the generation of digital sovereign and norm-compliant cloud services that enable accountability in the context of a digital government, both from a technical and from a socio-technical perspectives. The specific objectives are to:

  • investigate the concept of digital sovereignty in the context of a digital government and to identify the factors that enable or hinder the achievement of digital sovereignty. This includes design enabling the exploitation and adaptation of such digital infrastructures;
  • by means of experiments, explore the potential of generative AI in generating digital infrastructure that is normatively compliant, scalable, and cost-effective;
  • identify the technical and organizational factors that contribute to accountability in cloud service provisioning and management;
  • develop a computational framework for ensuring accountability in the context of a digital government.

This research will be done in collaboration with a PhD candidate from Delft University (TBM) who will address the transformation from current IT-infrastructures to the future digital cloud services for the digital government.

Research Methodology: The research will involve a literature review of relevant literature on cloud services, digital sovereignty, generative AI and infrastructure generation, normative compliance, and accountability in the context of digital government. The literature review will provide the basis for identifying a ground conceptual framework for the research. Basaed on this conceptual framework, the student will prototype and perform experiments with computational solutions meant to improve the design/maintenance cycle of cloud-based solutions for public services. The literature research, the analysis of relevant case studies, and the experimental analysis will involve qualitative and quantitative research methods.

What do you have to offer?

Your experience and profile:

  • a master degree in Informatics with a strong affinity with Artificial Intelligence and Social Sciences (Sociology, Economics, Political Science, or related fields)
  • strong engineering and empirical research skills;
  • familiarity with quantitative and qualitative research methods,
  • good knowledge of current developments in information technology including generative AI;
  • academic excellence, as shown in the grade transcripts and curriculum vitae.
  • a creative mind and analytical intelligence;
  • an interest in working in a multidisciplinary team;
  • willingness to learn new knowledge, and acquire new skills required by the project;
  • excellent written and spoken command of English, and ideally knowledge of Dutch;
  • interest in working on interdisciplinary topics, in interdisciplinary teams.

Candidates, who have:

  • software engineering skills
  • quantitative skills, including survey development, statistical analysis, and/or
  • familiarity with R, python or any other programming language, and/or
  • (big) data collection and analysis skills, and/or
  • previous experience in the private or public sector will be given extra consideration in the application process.

We strongly encourage members of broadly understood minority socio-cultural groups to apply.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is as soon as possible. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and dependent on relevant experience, ranges between € 2,770 in the first year to € 3,539 in the last year (scale P). UvA additionally offers an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. The UFO profile PhD Candidate is applicable. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands is applicable

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park, we offer you multiple fringe benefits:

  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • Multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • A complete educational program for PhD students;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • Partly paid parental leave;
  • The possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • A pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • The possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;
  • Help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

About us

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 42,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

The Faculty of Science (FNWI) has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The mission of the Informatics Institute (IvI) is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.

The University of Amsterdam is one of the largest comprehensive universities in Europe. With some 40,000 students, 6,000 staff, 3,000 PhD candidates, and an annual budget of more than 850 million euros, it is also one of Amsterdam’s biggest employers.
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