The University of Washington has a campus-wide commitment to Public Interest Technology, anchored in our Information School, School of Computer Science & Engineering, School of Law, and School of Public Policy & Governance. Public Interest Technology contributes to the UW President’s broader commitment to public good, public interest, public service, and public scholarship. In 2021, the President and Provost launched a University-wide task force on technology and society to further establish the UW as a leader in the field. Funding from the PIT-UN Challenge is supporting two important cross-disciplinary collaborations. One is a public interest technology clinic to serve community organizations and local governments in the Puget Sound region. The clinic will conduct policy analysis, do prototyping, and even build alternative technologies alongside groups that typically lack the resources to advocate for their interests in the face of technologies that conduct surveillance, gather biometric data, or make decisions on behalf of “smart cities.” The second project is deploying a community-owned cellular network to bring connectivity to marginalized communities in Seattle and Tacoma. This effort is a partnership between Computer Science, the Information School, UW Tacoma Urban Studies, and a number of local non-profit organizations including Tacoma Community Network, Tacoma Public Libraries, City of Seattle, and others.
Anind K. Dey, Dean of the Information School and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering
Educational Offerings, Faculty & Institution Building
Expanding Public Capacity for Community Cellular Networks
The project will expand community cellular network infrastructure and training programs to support digital equity within urban neighborhoods.
The Puget Sound Clinic for Public Interest Technology at the University of Washington-Seattle
A public interest technology clinic at the University of Washington-Seattle will pilot an undergraduate course and experiential learning program focused on service projects with community-based organizations in the Puget Sound region.
Nicholas Weber, Assistant Professor in the Information School
Career Pipeline/Placement; Educational Offerings
Enabling Small-Scale Cooperative Cellular Networks for Distributed Internet Access
We seek funding to build and deploy a novel research Cooperative Cellular Network with local organizations the Tacoma Community Network and the Tacoma Public Library to provide inexpensive Internet access to marginalized communities in South Puget Sound. We will also create a paired undergraduate class designed to bring STEM students into the PIT field through on-the-ground, experiential learning with real partners and communities, contributing ‘Career Pipeline/Placement’, an ‘Educational Offering’, and ‘Faculty & Institution Building’ for future PIT work at UW.