The George Washington University is expanding its commitment to developing and applying technology expertise for the public good through its collaborative partnership with the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN).

PIT-UN launched in 2019 to ensure that future leaders and innovators consider, evaluate and consciously address the social, political and economic dimensions of technological innovations. Through an annual network challenge, PIT-UN provides funding to member institutions interested in launching public interest technology initiatives or projects on their campuses.

PIT-UN is dedicated to growing a new interdisciplinary field around public interest technology and aims to place people, especially those most vulnerable or marginalized, at the center of technology development. The partnership is an opportunity for GW to combine its historical strengths in fields like law, policy and international affairs with technology innovation to grow a new generation of civic-minded technologists and digitally fluent policy leaders.

The George Washington University joined PIT-UN in 2020, bringing a substantial amount of public interest technology experience and expertise to the network. In its first year as a member, GW faculty submitted three cross-disciplinary proposals to the PIT-UN network challenge, and all three projects were funded.

Featured Projects

Ethical Tech Initiative

GWU’s Ethical Tech Initiative will be a unique cross-disciplinary program led by the Law School, in partnership with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Media and Public Affairs. The initiative engages in research, dialogue, and education to address the myriad issues raised by the societal impacts of digital technology. It will host six embedded technologists and four roundtables; engage in a pilot research project; and produce an Ethical Tech Portal. Initial areas of emphasis include evaluating harms from online speech and social media platforms’ roles in facilitating and combating such harms, including misinformation, voter suppression, and digital privacy violations, as well as bias in algorithmic decision-making.

GW Coders Scholarship & Internship Program: Building Coding Capacity for Public Interest Technology Engagement

GW Coders is a network that helps students apply coding and data analytics skills they are developing in the classroom to real-world research projects. The GW Coders PIT Scholarship & Internship Program uses the GW Coders platform to provide scholarships to students from underrepresented groups to take coding and data analytics courses, and stipends to student interns who provide coding support to PIT research projects. GW Coders matches PIT research projects with student interns and provides social support and learning resources as students develop and apply workplace-ready skills while advancing the PIT research. The program builds critical connections between STEM and non-STEM researchers.

The Public Interest Technology (PIT) Foundry of DC

The PIT Foundry of DC is premised on the idea of coordinating resources and building community among institutions committed to public interest technology. It begins with a joint effort among multiple DC schools to initiate a paradigm shift towards a more collaborative and inclusive model of PIT career preparation. Institutions of higher education often view one other as competitors in a zero-sum game. In fields that have traditionally been more exclusive and less diverse, this exacerbates already-existing access and equity challenges faced by students. PIT Foundry will lead DC institutions by example, extending PIT career preparation resources to support all DC students, regardless of each student’s home institution.