In the past 30 years, digital communications technologies have transformed how we connect and engage with the world around us, creating opportunities in every area of contemporary life. But as often as these technologies foster learning and promote justice, they have also been used in ways that amplify inequality. Too many people—particularly those who have historically been excluded or marginalized—aren’t able to access, benefit from, or influence digital platforms. The governance and use of technology are implicated in nearly all the drivers of inequality, underscoring the extent of this problem.

Policymakers are struggling to regulate everything from AI-operated phones to advertising models. Consumers jump to use new apps and services, often without understanding the adverse consequences they entail. And as a result, their privacy—and sometimes, their safety and even their attention and ability to distinguish truth from fiction—are casualties in the race to create new tech.

What’s clear is that the solution to these challenges lies not only in an approach focused on developing tech for good, but also asking, “good for who?”

A pioneering yet still emerging field, public interest technology (PIT), is both asking that critical question and finding answers. Public interest technology is a cross-disciplinary approach that demands technology be designed, deployed, and regulated in a responsible and equitable way—in other words, in service of the public interest.

It operates on the understanding that technology is not, and has never been, “neutral.” That’s why public interest technologists—engineers, scientists, community organizers, activists—center the experiences of historically marginalized groups, those who have been both targeted and neglected by technology.

This field, and indeed this in-depth series, cuts across sectors and calls for those in academia, civil society, private and public sectors to individually and collectively build a society that can fully benefit from technology—and limit its adverse consequences.

The examples that follow animate the critical contributions public interest technologists are making across each sector. Together they create a road map of multisector solutions and advance a holistic understanding of a connected future guided by public interest technology insights.

Read the full article about public interest technology by Jenny Toomey and Latanya Sweeney at Stanford Social Innovation Review.