Ash Center Announces 2016-17 Technology and Democracy Fellows

August 16, 2016
Archon Fung with Technology and Democracy Fellows
Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship Archon Fung leads a discussion with the Ash Center's Technology and Democracy fellows.

Cambridge, MA— The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School is pleased to announce its new cohort of Technology and Democracy Fellows—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 is designed to build connections between the Kennedy School and the worlds of technology, policy, and government. The fellowship supports practitioners in making a real-world impact. The fellows, in turn, help students in developing their skills and understanding of major concepts related to technology and governance.

The Technology and Democracy Fellows form a unique virtual community of learning—both with one another and with faculty, students, and others across Harvard—that provides the fellows encouragement and support as they 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. 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 Harvard Kennedy School 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. 

Beginning August 2016, the Ash Center welcomes as Technology and Democracy Fellows:

  • Leah Bannon, Organizer, Tech Lady Hackathons and Product Lead, 18F
  • Trevor Davis, CTO, National People’s Action and CEO/Founder, ToSomeone
  • Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director, BetaNYC
  • Harlo Holmes, Director of Newsroom Digital Security, Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Hila Mehr, Senior Analyst, Market Developments and Insights, IBM
  • Dhrumil Mehta, Database Journalist, FiveThirtyEight

Hollie Russon Gilman, PhD, serves as an advisor and mentor for the Technology and Democracy Fellowship. An expert on civic tech, citizen engagement, and democratic innovations, Russon Gilman is a long-time friend and affiliate of the Ash Center and a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. 

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit

Contact Information:
Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School