Algorithms are often associated with the digitisation of society, but the concept itself pre-dates electronic technologies by quite a bit: the word stems from arabic and goes back to the 8th/9th century mathematician al-Khwarizmi. Algorithms have been described as rules, methods, sets of instructions or ‘recipes’, producing a result within the parameters of a given task. The precise definition of ‘algorithm’ is however contested and depends on issues of ‘effectiveness’, finiteness and level of abstraction.
mHealth technologies use algorithms to process user data and to produce algorithm-generated predictions and particular personalised health guidance. Bias built into algorithms can produce algorithmic bias.