Public interest technology

Public interest technology or public interest tech (PIT) is a field that combines expertise in technology, especially computing, with the common good. Public interest tech can be divided into two approaches:

  • The application of computing and related technologies to serve the common good.
  • Applying knowledge of computing and related technologies to public policy.

The word "technology" can refer broadly to any devices, processes, or skills used to solve practical problems. In the context of public interest tech, however, "technology" is often narrowly defined as "digital skills required to build modern products and services".[1] This narrower definition of "technology" includes, but is not limited to, the following disciplines:

  • Software engineering
  • User experience (UX) design and research
  • Data science and data engineering
  • Product management
  • Computational sciences, such as computational biology and computational social science

Organizations that promote public interest tech include:

  • Code for America
  • Coding it Forward
  • Ford Foundation
  • Hack4Impact
  • Impact Labs
  • Mozilla Foundation
  • TechShift

Public interest tech may be done with a focus on the most pressing causes identified by effective altruism. For example:

  • The for-profit startup Sendwave is a mobile payments platform that allows users to send money to contacts in Africa and Asia.
  • altLabs has developed computational models to identify the origin of genetically engineered material, as a way to improve biosecurity.
  • The fields of AI alignment and AI governance aim to mitigate global catastrophic risks from advanced artificial intelligence.

Further reading

Ford Foundation (2021) Public interest tech: About, Ford Foundation.

New America (2021) Public interest technology: About, New America.

Public-Interest Technology Resources. Website maintained by Bruce Schneier.

AI alignment | data science | entrepreneurship | governance of artificial intelligence | information security | mechanism design | software engineering

  1. ^

    Code for America (2018) Talent initiative, Code for America.