Oct. 7, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Public Interest Technology University Network today announced the award of $3.1 million in grants to 21 colleges and universities to support new and existing programs designed to train engineers, policymakers, and social justice advocates to use technology for the public good. Awarded through the network’s inaugural “Network Challenge,” the grants will support the development of new public interest technology initiatives and institutions in academia, and foster collaboration among the network’s partner institutions.
A full list of the 27 programs receiving grants can be found at the bottom of this release. They include:
- Miami Dade College: Miami Dade College, in partnership with Microsoft, Code Miami, and the City of Miami, will engage students in the creation of the Miami Budget project. Students will work with faculty and industry professionals to create a bilingual, participatory web platform, which will allow Miami residents to be informed contributors to their local budget.
- Princeton University: Building a pipeline for talented computer science students to work with local, state, and federal consumer protection agencies, Princeton University will develop a summer internship program that places students at such agencies as they increasingly confront high-profile challenges related to regulating new technologies.
- Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech will create the Southeast Region PIT Faculty Fellows program, which will convene a cohort of 16 technologists and social scientists from to develop interdisciplinary projects addressing historic and continued equity challenges in the Southeastern U.S.
- Georgetown University: Georgetown University will develop innovative, replicable workshops on AI & Ethics for three nationally recognized fellowship programs that provide training and work placements for government careers in technology policy, so that those building AI policy have an actionable commitment to its socially responsible use.
“As a social justice funder, our hope for a better world forms the fundamental core of what we do,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “Our society is marred by devastating inequalities of all kinds and addressing these challenges requires ideas that marry inspiration with impact. Through the work happening in colleges and universities to leverage technology to serve the public interest, we hope to build a new generation of technologists and policymakers who will be able to hold—in both hands—a desire to disrupt the systems that are no longer working and a dream of something bigger: doing good for others.”
“The impact of technology on our society is one of the defining challenges of our time,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America. “The technological advancements of today will powerfully define the future, which is why it is critical to consider how technology and innovation affects not just the industries in which we operate, but entire political, social, and economic systems.”
“By fostering a new generation of public-interested technologists and spurring collaboration across disciplines and institutions, these grants will help ensure that technology and innovation play a role in solving the complex problems that the world faces—from climate change to national security, digital disinformation to economic inequality,” said Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The Public Interest Technology University Network (PITUN), which was convened earlier this year by the Ford Foundation, New America, and the Hewlett Foundation, is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology, as well as growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists and digitally fluent policy leaders. The “Network Challenge” is funded through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, Siegel Family Endowment, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and Raikes Foundation.
Members of the Public Interest Technology University Network represent a diverse cross section of the American higher education sector, from Ivy League institutions, to major public universities, to technology-focused schools. They include: Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Florida International University, Georgetown University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Miami Dade College, Olin College of Engineering, Pardee RAND Graduate School, Pepperdine University, Princeton University, Stanford University, The City University of New York, The University of Texas at Austin, University of California, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia.
Public interest technology is a broadly defined and emerging area of study that combines digital innovation and public policy. Already, universities across the United States have created joint degrees, exchange programs, and cross-disciplinary initiatives to begin to develop a robust pipeline of future technologists and leaders seeking to pursue careers in the growing field.
Colleges and universities that are interested in joining the Public Interest Technology University Network can contact New America (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about membership
The Public Interest Technology Universities Network Challenge Fund is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that supports innovative and effective public interest projects.
Public Interest Technology University Network’s “Network Challenge” Winners
Arizona State University (ASU)
The ECAST-ASTC Community Innovation Fellowship will build a replicable, scalable, and competitive training curriculum and fellowship program around public interest technology. These efforts will enhance the capacity of public engagement professionals at five science and technology centers in Public Interest Technology University Network cities to work collaboratively with a local government, community, or university partner to convene informed and inclusive dialogues on public interest technology issues for their respective communities.
Carnegie Mellon University
Computational Ethics introduces students to real-world applications of language technologies (LT) and addresses ethical implications and risks that LT tools can pose. The Public Interest Technology University Network has awarded a grant to expand this course and create open-access educational materials, including video lectures and slides, lecture notes, assignments, creation of a textbook, and sample course projects that will help other institutions in their efforts to train ethical technologists.
Carnegie Mellon University
Policy Innovation Lab, a project-based course, pairs student teams with partners in local, state, and federal government to rapidly design, develop, and test real solutions to policy challenges. The Public Interest Technology University Network has awarded a grant to fuel the creation of an open-source, open-access “Policy Innovation Lab Starter Kit” that other universities can use to create their own programs in the same model.
City University of New York (CUNY)
This CUNY project will create a repository of teaching materials focused on the new field of public interest technology. It will award faculty with mini-grants to create and share public interest technology curricula as open educational resources (OER). By making use of state-of-the-art OER technology, public interest technology curriculum can be regularly revised, resulting in updated content that constantly evolves as the public interest technology discipline matures.
City University of New York (CUNY)
This project will build a summer bridge program for diverse graduating high school students to encourage them to enter public interest technology academic and experiential programs in college. Based at the College of Staten Island (CSI-St. George), this project will partner with local nonprofits and numerous academic departments and take a cross-disciplinary approach to address the impact of new technologies on local communities, public policy, and social justice issues.
Traditional approaches to software design can result in computational products that distort and undermine the long-term health of society, political life, and the environment. Combining expertise from journalism, architecture, and computer science, the Columbia University team will create new processes for building technologies in partnership with local civic groups, ensuring that public interests are prioritized.
Florida International University
Florida International University (FIU)’s PantherX Fellows program will create an experiential learning platform for a new generation of thinkers working at the nexus of public interest and frontier technologies. FIU will train and certify interdisciplinary case teams of students and match them with local governments to engage in research and problem-solving around public interest technology application opportunities and challenges.
Georgetown Law will bring together faculty and administrators from around the country who are building bridges between law and computer science. The goal is to produce a seminal white paper and public workshop outlining how universities can create courses, degrees, research, and other forms of cross-disciplinary collaboration between computer science and law.
Georgetown University's Ethics Lab and Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) will pilot innovative, replicable workshops on artificial intelligence (AI) and ethics for three nationally recognized fellowship programs that provide training and embedded experiences in government for those pursuing government careers in technology policy. The project's goal is to ensure that those who are forming AI policy have an actionable commitment to its socially responsible use.
The Southeast Region Public Interest Technology Faculty Fellows program will convene a cohort of 16 technologists and social scientists to create interdisciplinary projects addressing historic and continued equity challenges in the Southeastern U.S.
The Harvard Kennedy School will lead an initiative that brings together faculty from public policy schools and internal government training programs to develop teaching resources so that graduates of public policy and administration programs are well-equipped with skills and competencies to solve digital-era problems. This work, which has already prompted interest from hundreds of practitioners and faculty from around the world, will create new educational offerings, build a pipeline of public interest technology talent in the public service sector, and forge a network of interested educators.
This grant will support a national network of 50 educators and researchers that will conduct scientific explorations, develop courses, and provide internships that investigate adverse consequences of technologies to impact real-world practice. This network aims to build academic knowledge about technology-society clashes and teach others to do the same.
Howard University will assemble a group of technologists to develop a public interest technology case study platform. This platform will feature detailed accounts of past student projects that have emerged out of university classes – with narratives, teaching strategies, takeaways, and resources that future teaching teams and students can use to improve the quality of their curriculum and impact of their projects.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
With a grant from the Public Interest Technology University Network, MIT is setting up a cybersecurity clinic that will place appropriately trained MIT students in city agencies to help document their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Students who complete a self-paced eight-hour online risk assessment curriculum, and pass a certification test, will be eligible to work for the Clinic beginning in February 2020.
Miami Dade College (MDC)
Miami Dade College, in partnership with Microsoft, Code Miami, and the City of Miami, will engage students in the creation of the Miami Budget project. Students will work with faculty and industry professionals to create a bilingual, participatory web platform, which will allow Miami residents to be informed contributors to their local budget.
Miami Dade College (MDC)
The Geographic Information Systems for Environment and Community project (GISEC) will design an academic pathway from high school to undergraduate and graduate studies in geographic information systems. GISEC is developing a project learning platform with natural disasters risk reduction and public interest orientation. The platform will be able to network with academic specialists and institutions and put this technology and knowledge at the service of the communities.
Olin College of Engineering
The student-run Olin Public Interest Technology Clinic will launch three initiatives centered on supporting the work of engineering students near public interest technology projects. This will include students designing and convening a series of events and conversations focused on the responsibility of engineers.
Pardee RAND Graduate School
The Pardee RAND Graduate School will create a curriculum to facilitate discussion about the ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) among students and RAND researchers. The goal of the curriculum is to encourage integration of ethical AI analysis into research and policy recommendations.
The “Leading Smart Communities” Professional Certificate offered by Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy will offer early to mid-career local government leaders (elected and staff) important training in the latest ways technology can make their governing institutions more transparent, inclusive, and responsive to their residents.
Building a pipeline for talented computer science students to work with local, state, and federal consumer protection agencies, Princeton University will develop a summer internship program that places students at such agencies as they increasingly confront high-profile challenges related to regulating new technologies.
The Race and Technology Praxis Program at Stanford University will link teaching and practice of public interest technology through coursework and internships with practitioner fellows – training students, accelerating practitioner impact, and elevating discourse on race and technology.
Through the Technology in the Public Interest Career Pipeline Project, Stanford University will weave public interest technology into the culture of the school by branding a career pathway and developing real-world opportunities for students to explore public interest technology in practice. The project will be directed by the Haas Center for Public Service, the hub of Cardinal Service.
University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
The Enhancing Public Interest Technology Education project at UC Berkeley is developing an innovative, cross-discipline curriculum that will teach the ethical, political, and societal implications of technology. The course will be open to leaders who have demonstrated the skills to engage and excel in their chosen career paths.
University of Chicago
Faculty from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and School of Social Service Administration will develop a course and book prospectus to help establish the intellectual foundations and core competencies required for public servants in this era of data overflow. The project will ultimately contribute to government and its private sector partners – businesses, nonprofits and advocacy groups – being better able to understand and deploy data in their pursuit of the public good.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan aims to identify constraints faced by people of color in public interest technology by 1) identifying and surveying public interest technology practitioners of color on factors impacting their career, and 2) hosting workshops that will proffer solutions or interventions. A public website will communicate the results of the analysis and recommendations.
University of Texas, Austin (In Partnership with U. of Michigan)
The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan will co-host a conference and develop an online community for information researchers and faculty to share ideas and best practices, ensuring that undergraduate informatics education prepares students for careers in public interest technology.
University of Virginia (UVA)
The University of Virginia Public Interest Technology University Network project team will design, develop, and teach an interdisciplinary graduate-level course called “Innovation in the Public Interest.” The course will provide students with a structured experience in the development of public interest technology for actual government sponsors on real problems. The goal is to instill a deep understanding of the complex ethical, legal, and policy implications of new technologies in the public interest.