Digitalisation is hot. Data is everywhere, and everyone is producing it. It is a big thing in all corners of our society and both the corporate and the public world have discovered data as a key aspect of their success. From the data hungry Silicon Valley start-ups to your local supermarket, and from the European Commission to your local council, they all want to use your data. The upsides of the 'datafication' of our society are already numerous: doctors are using sophisticated algorithms that enable them to use more tailor made treatments, smart homes are helping people to control their energy use, and fraud and corruption may be rooted out with systems based on distributed ledger technology, also known as blockchain. Big data, AI, data analytics, cybersecurity and smart systems are on the lips of innovators around the globe. But also cause privacy and consumer watchdogs sleepless nights, as malicious individuals seek ways to misuse ever-growing data streams to create fake news, or steal your identity.
Obviously, people want to know about the benefits, but also the costs of digitalisation. In that respect academics, watchdogs and others have identified a need for regulation and secure technologies to 'tame' the data beast and safeguard privacy concerns. Those are areas where government - and public auditors - come in. We have made Big data and digital audit the topic of this first edition of the ECA Journal in 2020, to find out how far the EU institutions and others are with their own digital transformation, to uncover how IT audit, AI and new connections between data and processes can help the auditor of the future provide assurance and trust, and whether and how digitalisation changes the audit questions to be raised and influences the role auditors can play in a digital world.
13 Towards a digitally transformed European Commission - By Gertrud Ingestad, Director-General for Informatics (DG DIGIT), European Commission
27 Smart Audit: the digital transformation of audit - By Professor Miklos A. Vasarhelyi, Assistant Professor Soohyun Cho, Arion Cheong, and Chanyuan (Abigail) Zhang, Rutgers University
35 'ECA audit goes digital' with the Digital Steering Committee - By Eva Lindström, ECA Member
60 Spinning negative messages? A closer look at the tonality of ECA audit reports and press releases - By Claudia Spiti, Directorate of the Presidency, and Nunzia Squicciarini and Zsolt Varga, Information, Workplace and Innovation Directorate
80 'Big data' analysis and modern supreme audit institutions: tearing down the walls of data kingdoms - By Janar Holm, Auditor General, National Audit Office of Estonia
88 A is for Accountability - oversight in the age of artificial intelligence - By Taka Ariga and Stephen Sanford, U.S. Government Accountability Office
92 Digitalisation – EU can lead by creating a sound ethical framework - Interview with Eva Kaili, Member of the European Parliament
112 'Big data' – a whole new world for statistics, also in Europe - Interview with Fabio Ricciato and Kostas Giannakouris, Eurostat, the EU's statistical office
133 ECA JOURNAL LONG READ - Text Mining and eDiscovery for Big-Data Audits - By Professor Jan Scholtes, University of Maastricht
In addition to these highlights, this ECA Journal explores the topic of big data and audit in contributions from academic, corporate and governmental external experts. They include Professor Dino Pedreschi, Fosca Giannotti, Valerio Grossi, and Roberto Trasarti from the University of Pisa and Institute of Science and Technology of Informatics 'A. Faedo' on big data for the social good; Stavroula Demetriades of Eufofound on workplace innovation practices; Mike Suffield from ACCA on the future skills of auditors; Pirkko Lahdelma and Ines Gullichsen of the National Audit Office of Finland on digital transformation; Felipe Castro Barrigon of the European Commission's Internal Audit Service on their journey in digitalisation; Ferry Meuldijk of Deloitte Accountants Nederland on digital audit; Louis van Garderen of Joinson&Spice on auditing and accounting services for technology clients; Maria Rosaria Coduti and Julie Sors of the European Commission's DG-C-NECT on the European data space; Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the European Data Protection Supervisor on data protection; Professor Giuseppe D'Onza and Federica De Santis from the University of Pisa on digitalisation and audit standards; and Jiri Hradec, Charles Macmillan and Nicole Ostlaender from the EU's JRC on the use of language processing for policy support.
Furthermore, this edition features interviews with Viorel Ştefan, ECA Member, Magdalena Cordero, Mariusz Pomienski, and Martin Weber, ECA directors; and articles from ECA staff members, including Spyridon Pilos on digital audit and ECA's Big and Open Data conference for EU SAIs; Emanuele Fossati, Carmen Schnell and Clare Reilly (now Deloitte) on the ECALab; Franck Noël on IT audit; Valeria Rota on the digitalisation of audit processes; Richard Hardy on new technologies for monitoring the Common Agricultural Policy; Di Hai on the ECA's big data pilot; Mirko Iaconisi on European Blockchain Services; Gilberto Moggia and Zsolt Varga on process mining; Michiel Sweerts on cybersecurity and audit; and Chrysoula Latopoulou on the ECA summer school on digitalisation.