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Strategy

A robust public interest technology field can help build a society where technological expertise is seen as an important contributor to advancing equity, expanding opportunity and protecting basic rights and liberties. Academia, civil society, government, and the private sector can all benefit from this expertise, and talent pipelines that connect these sectors will allow public interest technologists to migrate between fields, bringing their ethics and experience with them. For society to fully benefit from technology while limiting its downsides, we need to cultivate public interest technology expertise across these four sectors.


Public interest technologists and the sectors they transform

Public interest technologists recognize that technology is never neutral. They believe it’s not enough to say “tech for good” and instead ask, “good for whom?” They include a broad diversity of experts typically underrepresented in the tech space—including women and communities of color who pair their deep knowledge of the way technology works with an understanding of ethics, legal, policy and societal concerns to bring values like justice, accountability and equity to the fore.

Supporting public interest technologists across academia, civil society, government and the private sector will help ensure that technology is developed, maintained, and governed in a way that protects individual rights and improves people’s lives.

Learn more about the different types of public interest technologists.

Academia

Universities and colleges are crucial to creating talent for this burgeoning field, and have already made significant strides. They increasingly educate public interest technologists who create and implement technology that improves people’s lives. An education in public interest technology that cuts across established fields like law, sociology, journalism, public policy and more allows students to better understand the challenges technology can either worsen or address — providing young people with pathways to pursue careers in technology for purpose across many established fields.

The Public Interest Technology University Network

Hosted at New America, is a partnership that fosters collaboration between universities and colleges committed to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Through the development of curricula, research, and experiential learning programs, these schools are producing graduates with multiple fluencies at the intersection of technology and policy. The network currently includes 43 member organizations.

The Public Interest Technology Lab at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

Is helping to shape the future of technology and society to advance equity, expand opportunity and protect basic rights and liberties. As the lab grows, students and faculty will work together to develop and provide technologies in the public interest, enable research and development and identify ways to share knowledge about public interest technology across institutions and disciplines.

Civil Society

Community engagement and equity are at the heart of public interest technology, and civil society organizations across the globe are seeing how PIT can help unlock their full potential and fulfill their missions. Through public interest technology, civil society organizations can hold the private sector and government accountable—whether urging them to properly regulate technology or advance equitable service delivery programs—while also leveraging technologies and services to the communities that need them most.

Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellows

Is an opportunity for those who want to ensure the internet is a force for good. From web activists, open-source researchers, engineers and policy experts, these fellows develop new ways of thinking about emerging threats to a healthy internet.

Just Tech ​​Fellowship

Empowers a diverse network of “social researchers,” including scholars, civil society representatives, artists and journalists, to create a more equitable and representative technological future. By creating a pipeline that fosters research and social engagement, the program works to enrich public discourse, inform policy, and imagine just futures where public interests drive technological change.

The Civil Rights, Privacy and Technology Table

Is a collaboration across the sectors of civil rights, digital rights, media justice and public interest to advance the digital civil rights movement. By working toward a world where technology brings greater safety and economic opportunity for everyone, the table designs and uses new technologies that reflect the values of equal opportunity and justice.

Code for America’s Community Fellowship

pairs community members with local government to address inequities in service delivery. With the aim to train and support community members, those closest to the problem are paired with the skills they need to make crucial changes in government.

Government

Public interest technologists are critical to ensuring that governments at every level can effectively offer important and, in many cases, life-saving services to everyone. Their understanding of both technology and ethics makes service provision more efficient and accessible for those historically marginalized by the government. Government officials that utilize and regulate technology can become better equipped at their jobs with a public interest technology lens.

Aspen Tech Policy Hub

Helps tech experts understand the policy process through fellowship and executive education programs, and encourages them to develop outside-the-box solutions to society’s problems.

Tech Talent Project

is dedicated to increasing the ability of the US government to recruit modern technical leaders to achieve critical social, economic, and policy outcomes. It was founded in 2017 by former technology leaders from the administrations of Presidents Obama and Trump.

US Digital Response

Puts experienced, pro-bono technologists to work with government and organizations responding to moments of crisis to quickly deliver critical services and infrastructure that support the needs of the public.

AnitaB.org

Envisions a future where the people who build technology mirror the people and societies for whom it is designed. They connect, inspire, and guide women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.

New America’s Public Interest Technology Team

Is committed to strengthening nonprofits and governments by providing them with the support and tools they need to deliver outcomes that better serve the public.

Private Sector

By understanding the fundamental principles underlying public interest technology and the challenges and opportunities technology creates, leaders in the private sector can gain a competitive edge, preventing unintended consequences and building brand loyalty. Moreover, as the American workforce increasingly looks for employers that align with their values, companies with a reputation for doing good will attract and retain top talent.

Corporate Civic Responsibility: A New Paradigm for Companies to Advance Public Interest Technology

Clarice Chan took a civic leave sabbatical from her role at Microsoft to serve as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow. Upon completion of her fellowship, Chan partnered with the Tech Talent Project and Ford Foundation to produce this paper about the urgent need to bring technical talent into government. The paper also demonstrates what Ford learned from its investments in developing public interest law and applies those lessons to public interest tech, namely that public-private partnerships benefit the private sector because technologists return to their permanent positions with a greater understanding about government and its functions.

Mozilla

As the Mozilla Manifesto Addendum states, opportunities for learning, connection and innovation are the driving values behind Mozilla’s work. Through programming and strategic initiatives, such as accessibility campaigns like Common Voice and its fellowships, Mozilla is committed to advancing the public interest through technology.

Partnership on AI

The Partnership on AI brings diverse voices together across global sectors, disciplines, and demographics so developments in AI advance positive outcomes for society. As a nonprofit partnership of industry, academic, civil society, and media organizations creating solutions, it seeks to pool collective wisdom to make change.

CyberPeace Initiative

The CyberPeace Initiative works with civil society organizations focused on protecting communities vulnerable to cyber attacks. It analyzes cyberattacks and grounds that analysis in evidence on the impact on society, exposing violations in international law and norms. This nonpartisan and independent organization prioritizes the security and privacy needed to create worldwide cyber peace.