Pardee RAND Joins Network to Advance Public Interest Technology

March 11, 2019

Pardee RAND is proud to be a charter member of the Public Interest Technology University Network, a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists.

Convened by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and New America, the network represents a powerful alignment across sectors — including higher education, philanthropy, and public policy — as part of a new push to define and build the public interest technology sector.

Dean Susan Marquis explained why she was excited to join the network: "This initiative dovetails nicely with not only work we're pursing in the Tech and Narrative Lab but, more broadly, the Technologist stream and the redesign of Pardee RAND."

Tech and Narrative Lab director Todd Richmond is the school's primary liaison to the network. One of his roles will be to collaborate with the other members and aid in telling the stories of public interest technology.

"The vision of PIT-UN aligns well with that of the TNL," he said, "understanding that technology, particularly the move to digital, has profoundly changed the world, and policy approaches need to change as well."

Applying the blueprint of public interest law to the technology sector, the network brings together colleges and universities committed to building the field of public interest technology within academia, creating a robust pipeline of students seeking to pursue careers in public interest technology, and fostering collaboration across the network.

One hope the foundations have for the network is to promote the inclusion of the next generation of computer scientists, information architects, engineers, data scientists, and designers in policymaking and public service delivery. Their involvement can help ensure the public is better served by the design and implementation of policies and services which anticipates the implications of technology.

"The focus on experiential learning and new models are critical, and a key part of our redesign."

—TNL director Todd Richmond

As New America Foundation chief executive Anne-Marie Slaughter told the New York Times, "The idea that a young person could look at a tech career and see that as a path to working in the Justice Department, or any nongovernment organization or local government agency, as much as going to a tech company, is something that I think is badly needed."

Pardee RAND and the other network members have each committed to launching initiatives to build the field of public interest technology, including:

  • Supporting curriculum development and faculty hiring needed to provide students with interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education, so they can critically assess the implications of new technologies and develop technologies in service of the public good
  • Developing experiential learning opportunities, such as clinics, internships, fellowships at the intersection of technology and public interest
  • Finding new ways to encourage and support graduates who pursue careers in public interest technology, recognizing that financial considerations and debt pose barriers to entering the field
  • Providing faculty with the infrastructure, support and resources to build this nascent area of inquiry and training
  • Sharing institutional data that allows the network to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to develop the field of public interest technology

Through these robust activities to build the field of public interest technology on campuses across the country, the network aims to cultivate a new field of study and position the next generation of tech and policy leaders to design, build, and govern technologies in ways that advance the public interest.

Richmond said, "The focus on experiential learning and new models are critical, and a key part of our redesign. We look forward to sharing our progress and experiences, learning from our partners, and expanding the culture of experimentation around technology and policy."

In addition to Pardee RAND, the charter members of the network are:

  • Arizona State University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Columbia university
  • Florida International University
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • Harvard University
  • Howard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Miami Dade College
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • 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
  • University of Virginia