This fall, the Ash Center welcomed its second cohort of Technology and Democracy Fellows, comprised of technologists committed to improving the health of American democracy. This year’s fellows are especially passionate about building the capacity and new tools needed by civic activists, community organizers, local government officials, and journalists who are so critical to making democracy work.
Under the direction of Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and academic dean of the Kennedy School, the Technology and Democracy Fellowship and affiliated workshop series are designed to build connections between School and the worlds of technology, policy, and government. Hollie Russon Gilman, PhD, a long-time friend and affiliate of the Ash Center and now a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, serves as an advisor and mentor.
The fellows form a unique virtual community of learning — both with one another and with faculty, students, and others across Harvard — that provides encouragement and support as the fellows develop a substantive project that is salient to their field and seeks to improve the quality of democratic governance.
The AY2016–17 Technology and Democracy Fellows’ projects include the development of cutting-edge digital tools and systems for government transparency, community organizing, and cybersecurity efforts. Other projects are geared toward research with direct political and policy implications, including an analysis of political speech using machine learning and natural language processing, and a study on the role of culture change in government’s adoption (or avoidance) of digital tools.
Technology and Democracy Fellows also design and lead a series of hands-on workshops for HKS students on a broad range of technological skills and concepts. Through participation in the workshops, students gain a deeper understanding, for example, of how to effectively utilize data visualization techniques, use design thinking techniques to develop new human-centered products and services, convey compelling digital stories, employ technologists’ platforms like GitHub, and make use of technology to facilitate interaction between the public and government.