A group of five national foundations working to promote the use of the Internet for social good has announced grants totaling $18 million to strengthen the emerging field of public interest technology.
Created in February 2015, the NetGain initiative — whose partners include the Ford, MacArthur, Knight, Open Society, and Mozilla foundations — is focused on increasing the number of people worldwide who are using their technological skills to improve civil society and government. Grants totaling $1.25 million announced by the five foundations earlier this week are in addition to $17 million in grants awarded individually by the foundations over the course of their respective yearlong exploration of public interest technology.
The latest grants were awarded to the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute in support of its TechCongress Congressional Innovation Fellowship program, which aims to promote better technology policy making and leadership; the Technology Science Research Collaboration Network, a project of Harvard University's Data Privacy Lab, which is working to develop professional pathways for technologists interested in engaging issues related to public interest technology; Code for America, which will serve as fiscal sponsor for a research project that analyzes the professional pathways for technologists in the public and nonprofit sectors; the New Venture Fund's Media Democracy Fund, which will serve as fiscal sponsor for a university fellowship program aimed at students with an interest in both technology and public policy; and a separate effort to develop executive education curricula, case studies, and leadership training to help tech executives think about the role technology and open collaboration play in their work.
In addition, the partnership released its first report, A Pivotal Moment: Developing a New Generation of Technologists for the Public Interest (84 pages, PDF), which identifies opportunities for building the field of public interest technology and ways in which philanthropy and other stakeholders can support such efforts.
"Philanthropy has a responsibility to ensure that technology makes the world more equal. For many of society's most disenfranchised, their relationship with technology is a virtual extension of their exclusion," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "But what gives me hope is that technology can be a critical ingredient in the efforts to challenge inequality in all its forms and expand inclusion and opportunity."