Public Interest Technology at SFE

What is Public Interest Technology?

Public Interest Technology, or PIT for short, is an ecosystem of technologists, designers, researchers, and more that promotes the public interest in the development, utilization, regulation, and transfer of technological tools and approaches. Technology has upended the way we learn, communicate, work, civically engage, and more. Too often, tech designers and tech companies prioritize speed and scale—ignoring values like trust and equity. The emerging and evolving public interest technology ecosystem is creating opportunities to prioritize values like equity, in the tech field. 

This growing field holds massive opportunities for people excited to use technology and digital solutions to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. From creating software that connects real time public health data to hospital systems, to building data models to map municipal climate impact, PIT elevates our digital infrastructure through cutting edge solutions designed to address today’s biggest problems in ways that are equitable, inclusive and accountable to the public.

Our Approach

As technology’s role in all parts of society continues to expand, it’s our goal to ensure that everyone is conversant with technology as it affects all areas of our lives. We work with policy-makers, technologists, researchers, and educators to ensure that the design, deployment, and use of technologies are leveraged in a way that advances the public interest. Our grantees who use technology to enhance public institutions, imagine solutions that fulfill unmet needs, and critically examine technology’s impact on civic life.

The Pit Community

Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN)

The Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership between 48 colleges, universities, and HBCUs, around the country that are committed to growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. The network and challenge grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures and Siegel Family Endowment.

Public Interest Technology Infrastructure Fund (PIT-I Fund)

The PIT-I Fund pools and deploys resources from funders committed to investing in essential infrastructure that will improve the capacity of the tech field to develop and deploy technology that is responsive to societal problems and needs. The PIT-I Fund invests in four strategic pillars with the aim of propelling the public and private sectors to invest in the creation and use of technology for good – shifting mindsets, innovation, capacity building, and resourcing. Funders include Ford Foundation, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Pivotal Ventures, Schmidt Futures, and Siegel Family Endowment. 

Fellowships and Public Sector Career Pathways

There are also a number of fellowship and internship opportunities for technologists looking to apply their skills to the benefit of the public sector. Through TechCongress, you could work on Capitol Hill directly with members of Congress to inform and shape federal technology policy. The Day One Project, hosted by the Federation of American Scientists, solicits big ideas for public technology projects and runs an accelerator program to help entrepreneurial technologists get those ideas off the ground. 

Purpose-Driven Platforms

Some of the world’s largest platform companies are pursuing goals related to public interest technology. Mozilla is committed to using the company’s open source data to build a healthier internet and more trustworthy AI. Wikimedia is made up of a team of technologists working to make knowledge free and accessible to all.