Universities Launch Network to Build Public Interest Technology Field

Universities Launch Network to Build Public Interest Technology Field

A coalition of twenty-one universities has announced a new partnership dedicated to defining and building the field of public interest technology and supporting a new generation of civic-minded technologists and digitally fluent policy leaders.

Launched with support from the FordHewlett, and New America foundations, the Public Interest Technology University Network will work to ensure that future leaders and innovators are prepared to consider, evaluate, and consciously address the way new technologies impact the world from a social, political, and economic perspective, with a focus on understanding how best to use technology in the implementation of public services and policies to meet and respond to the public's needs.

To that end, the network's member institutions will support curriculum development and faculty hiring designed to provide an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education; the development of experiential learning opportunities such as clinics, internships, and fellowships; efforts to encourage graduates to pursue careers in public interest technology; and the sharing of institutional data. 

Charter members of the network include Arizona State UniversityCarnegie Mellon UniversityColumbia UniversityFlorida International UniversityGeorgetown University, the Georgia Institute of TechnologyHarvard UniversityHoward University, the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMiami Dade College, the Olin College of EngineeringPardee RAND Graduate SchoolPepperdine UniversityPrinceton UniversityStanford University, the City University of New York, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and the University of California, Berkeley

Several members of the network have already created joint degree and exchange programs, as well as cross-disciplinary initiatives aimed at developing a pipeline of future technologists and leaders in public interest technology. They include Georgetown and MIT, which are offering a joint course in privacy law and technology; Harvard, which has incorporated ethics into many of the computer science classes it offers; and ASU, which is leading a comprehensive assessment of the technical needs of nonprofits and has developed a workshop that brings together students with congressional staffers and lobbyists.

"Technology has incredible potential to solve some of our society's most pressing challenges, as well as to create big new problems to address," said New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter. "In either case, we need as many technologists as lawyers and economists working in the public interest, and this network of colleges and universities will help build a new generation of technologists trained to advance the public good."

"We believe an essential element of advancing social justice is ensuring technology is a force for public good," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "We're thrilled to partner with these colleges and universities to build a new field of public interest technology and cultivate a generation of tech leaders equipped to use technology to challenge inequality in all its forms and expand inclusion and opportunity."

"Higher Education, Philanthropy and Public Policy Sectors Unite in New Push to Develop Public Interest Technology." Public Interest Technology University Network Press Release 03/11/2019.