Toward Technology that Serves the Public


Data from 2008 shows that 70 percent of degree-holders in computer and mathematical sciences are employed by the private sector. (Source, 2008.)

As technology becomes increasingly central to how government and civil society function, the lack of technically skilled and creative workers in the public sector poses serious challenges. Technical expertise is critical to improving government operations, technology policy and public institutions themselves. So what are the roots of this problem, and how can we address it?

A new report commissioned by the Ford Foundation in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation examines and aims to staunch the flow of technology talent away from the public sector, and finds a severe shortage of individuals in civil society and government who have the skills necessary to develop, leverage, or understand technology. Through interviews with dozens of policymakers, civil society and foundation leaders, scholars, and private sector executives and technologists, the report looks at the barriers that prevent people with technical skills in computer science, data science and the Internet from entering the public sector—and the culture change necessary to draw them in.

“The good news is the next generation of technologists really do care deeply about the world we live in,” said Alan Davidson, Google’s former public policy director and a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Politico in an article that highlighted the report. “A large part is making government and civil society more interesting to techies.”

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