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How public-interest technologists can build government that works for everyone

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How public-interest technologists can build government that works for everyone

Photo: Quick PS / Unsplash. Article by Michelle Shevin. Fast Company – February 2, 2021.

Technologists trained to understand the ethical, legal, and political ramifications of their code are exactly the type of people we need in Washington.

When COVID-19 struck and businesses began laying off employees, unemployment systems buckled. Why? State unemployment systems were using programming language from the Eisenhower era. By the end of 2020, despite the federal government distributing 14 million vaccine doses to states, only 4 million had been administered. Again, why? Without a modern hub to manage national distribution, institutions scrambled to deliver vaccines, leading to mismanagement, waste, and an avoidable loss of life.

These long-standing shortcomings, punctuated by the pandemic, reemphasize how important technology is for governments to fulfill their responsibilities. The Biden administration has an opportunity to build a 21st-century government, one that delivers the power of technology to benefit society at the speed of need, while offsetting the harms normally associated with Big Tech. To do so, the administration must prioritize hiring and deploying public-interest technologists who bring both expertise and ethics to the job. […]

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