Public interest technologies (PIT) serve to address social needs and challenges in society. People working in this space ask communities what their needs are first, without presuming they know what is best for them and generally use a participatory approach to innovation with values in mind and cultural awareness. In short, context matters in the creation of technologies and technological systems.

Public interest technologies pertain to technologies that may aid not-for-profits and non-government organizations to achieve their goals. These technologies might leverage open source software for collaboration, and open data initiatives to overcome societal challenges, may exercise crowdsourcing and crowdsensing techniques toward collective awareness, and provide open workforce exchanges where Information and Communication Technologies and engineering volunteerism is encouraged towards satisfying the needs of under-resourced organizations and citizenry.

Public interest technologies are equally relevant to private corporations who seek to embed the goals of human rights, social justice, sustainability and environmental justice in their workforce, going beyond corporate social responsibility and compliance. It is a corporate mode of operation that considers people as citizens, not just as customers in traditional business models.

In essence, a public interest technology approach to design addresses public problems in society such as privacy encroachment, data breaches, unsustainable practices, humanitarian crises, energy inefficiencies, accessibility to information and how technology can be applied to aid in policymaking and public service for the alleviation of these problems and adherence to universal services and obligations of all peoples.

Copyright Katina Michael 2019