October 7, 2019 - Ava DuVernay, Latanya Sweeney Headline First Convening of Public Interest Technology University Network

Georgetown hosted the inaugural convening of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) this week, featuring award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Professor Latanya Sweeney, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and other leaders.

Georgetown is one of 21 founding universities of the PIT-UN, a network convened by the Ford Foundation and other funders that is dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology.

DuVernay, Sweeney and Walker appeared in a panel with Georgetown Law's Alvaro Bedoya focused on "Technology, Race and our Future". They were followed by a conversation with FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. 

Since the launch of the network, PIT-UN member universities have created joint degrees, exchange programs and cross-disciplinary initiatives to begin developing a robust pipeline of future technologists and leaders seeking to pursue technology careers with an emphasis on the public good.

Georgetown’s Tech & Society Initiative, launched earlier this spring, is a leading effort in this area – both through education, creating new courses that embed ethics and governance into tech curricula, and through direct impact, innovating new policies for responsible progress.

“We see in our lives a rate of technological change that is unprecedented and we want to use it to impact society exponentially,” Georgetown Provost Robert Groves said in kicking off the afternoon’s public session.

Two Georgetown faculty teams were announced as PIT-UN grant recipients during the convening, out of a total of 27 grants awarded nationally through the organization’s “Network Challenge.”

The challenge is designed to support the development of new public interest technology initiatives and institutions in academia, and foster collaboration among the network’s partner institutions.

Alexandra Reeve Givens, executive director of the Tech Institute and our Faculty Director Paul Ohm were awarded $36,000 for their proposal “Building Bridges: Strengthening Cross-Disciplinary Connections in Computer Science and Law.”

Maggie Little, founding director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics’ Ethics Lab, and Jason Matheny, founding director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, were awarded $85,991 for their proposal “Embedding Ethics for Career Training in the Governance of AI.”

The Network Challenge Grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, Siegel Family Endowment, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Schmidt Futures and Raikes Foundation.

Read more about the event here.