Bringing Technologists into Technology Policy: Why we Invested in the Young Leaders in Technology Policy Fellowship

Bringing Technologists into Technology Policy: Why we Invested in the Young Leaders in Technology Policy Fellowship

"By bringing young professionals with a technology background and placing them at technology policy and implementation organisations, this unique fellowship aims to bring more technologists and their perspectives to improve the quality of the tech policy discourse"

Fair, effective and democratic technology policy is indispensable to create a meaningful life for every digital Indian. The last decade has seen India make giant leaps in digital identity, digital payments, artificial intelligence, digitisation of government records, blockchain, public digital platforms, machine learning etc. While these technologies bring efficiency, they also bring attendant risks of bias, exclusion and violations of human rights like privacy. The design of these tech systems places immense power in the hands of institutions – both public and private – while also creating underlying structural issues such as overcollection, unconsented data brokerage, behavioural manipulation, breach of data safety, and lack of recourse on platforms.

To safeguard the rapidly digitising India, our country needs good tech policies designed to account for user behaviour, incentives, state capacity, and power relations. To achieve this, India needs strong, balanced, and independent voices on tech policy that can help make informed decisions.

Further, civil society and research organisations have an important role to play in any democratic setup. They act as conscience-keepers and engage constructively with regulators and policy-makers to co-create effective policy design. They inform the public about the underlying mechanics of technology, and how it affects their lives, both positively and negatively. The importance of civil society is especially magnified in issues like data privacy - which are nuanced, subjective, and ongoing - and where the power imbalance between individuals and institutions is very high.

A vibrant technology policy ecosystem would be an amalgamation of expertise on both fronts – technology and policy. While lawyers and social scientists are good at thinking about governance, law and incentives; technologists understand tech, its complexities and are able to provide constructive solutions to tech programmes. Today, there are not enough technologists among the independent voices in tech policy.

The world is on the brink of a technological revolution, and India is at the forefront. Technology has fundamentally reshaped how we interact with governments, businesses, and each other. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and blockchain have evolved from buzzwords into everyday realities. Our lives have improved dramatically, and tech has enabled us to reach and serve more people than ever before, within India and globally

And yet, risks and challenges such as algorithmic bias, lack of privacy, digital exclusion, cybercrime, and misinformation have emerged. Unless contained, these issues can unhinge all the benefits of technology.

So the time to establish long-term policies and practices to govern technology is now. The choices we make today will determine the trajectory of mankind’s digital future for all times to come. This is why International Innovation Corps and Omidyar Network India are partnering to support the next generation of tech policy thought leaders.

This fellowship aims to recruit people with an engineering or tech education, and support them in becoming prominent leaders who grapple with complex strategic issues about tech. The program seeks out the ambitious and those with a vision for policy in India. A fellow isn’t someone who wants to just code, but also wants to learn to lead – as an industry leaders, or public intellectuals, or as a ‘techie’ with the big and systemic ideas.

The fellowship is structured as a two-year programme aimed at young (engineers) professionals placed with host organisations who will focus on work in policy and implementation during their tenure.

We believe a fellowship program which hosts technology talent, and engages them in the tech policy discourse, either as part of think-tanks or tech implementers will be helpful in bridging this gap and bring more technologists into tech policy. And this is Why we Invested in the YLT Fellowship.

To get more details and information on how and when you can apply to the YLT fellowship, click here.