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

Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Science
Educational level:  Master
Function type:  PhD position
Closing date:  30 April 2024
Vacancy number:  12726



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 Normative 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

A growing need for remote access to public services as well as the need for effective and cost-efficient collaborating governments are levering cloud computing technologies. Cloud computing technologies have a great potential for governments to provide both efficient as well as cost-effective public services. Cloud services offer many advantages, particularly 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 security, and sovereignty issues. In addition, 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 their partner organisations that provide cloud service technologies accountable in order to being able to accept liability for delivering the required cloud services to their clients, both governmental agencies as well as citizens.

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

Recent developments show the power of software generation using state-of-the-art techniques in Generative AI and Large Language Models. 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 normative compliant cloud services that enable accountability in the context of a digital government. The specific objectives are to:


  1. 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 questions such as:
    • How could one realize and exploit such digital infrastructures, 
    • how could one achieve multi-vendor and multi-state collaboration at EU scale (sharing costs and investments)
  2. explore the potential of generative AI in generating digital infrastructure that is normative compliant, scalable, and cost-effective.
  3. identify the factors that contribute to accountability in cloud service provisioning and management and to develop a 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 amongst others.

Research Methodology:
The research will be conducted using a mixed-methods approach, including qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis techniques. The research will involve a literature review of relevant theoretical and empirical literature on cloud services, digital sovereignty, generative AI and infrastructure generation, normative compliance and accountability in the context of a digital government. The literature review will provide the basis for developing a conceptual framework for the research.


The research will also involve case studies of selected digital government initiatives that have leveraged cloud services to achieve digital sovereignty, infrastructure generation, and accountability. The case studies will be conducted using semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and document analysis. The research will also involve a survey of government officials and cloud service providers to gather quantitative data on the factors that enable or hinder the achievement of digital sovereignty, infrastructure generation, and accountability.

Expected Outcomes

The research is expected to contribute to the theoretical and empirical fundaments for cloud services that feature digital sovereignty, infrastructure generation, normative compliance and accountability in the context of a digital government. The research is also expected to contribute to governmental policies ensuring accountability in cloud service provisioning and management in the context of a digital government. The research outcomes will be of interest to policymakers, government officials, cloud service providers, and researchers in the field of digital government. 


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.

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.


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.


More information about the Complex Cyber Infrastructure (CCI)  that is focused on the complexity of man-made systems on all scales, can be found here.


Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


Any questions?


Do you have any questions, or do you require additional information? Please contact:


Job application


If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including 30 April 2024


Applications should include the following information (all files apart from your CV should be submitted in one single pdf file):

  • a detailed CV including the months (not just years) when referring to your education and work experience;
  • a letter of motivation;
  • your university transcript(s);
  • an initial research plan.

Please make sure to provide ALL requested documents mentioned above.
You can use the CV field to upload your resume as a separate pdf document. Use the Cover Letter field to upload the other requested documents, including the motivation letter, as one single pdf file.

Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered. Please don’t send any applications by email.

The interviews will be held in the course of May 2024.



The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.


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