This article first published by Ford School on Nov. 30 and is reposted with permission.
A new massive open online course available on Michigan Online will help STEM and policy professionals, community organizers, and students understand how injustices can become embedded in technology and associated policies. “Justice and Equity in Technology Policy,” also explores how these policies affect marginalized communities and how the impacts can be addressed through better technological design and public policy.
The course is conceived and taught by public policy professor Shobita Parthasarathy, director of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. Earning a course certificate is free for members of the U-M community through Michigan Online. Auditing the course is free for all learners.
Technology has always affected people’s lives. But today the impacts are deeper and further reaching than ever before, from computer algorithms that determine who can access social services to electric vehicles that may help us combat climate change. Too often, these technologies reflect and reinforce social biases towards women, people of color, disabled people, and other marginalized communities. The need to develop public policies that center equity and justice in technology development and implementation is more urgent than ever.
“Technology and technology policy have crucial roles to play in making the world equitable and just,” Parthasarathy says. “But to achieve this, we need new generations of technologists, policymakers, and civil society advocates who understand technology in a nuanced way and know where and how to produce change. This course offers these skills, and will be useful to a range of audiences from those interested in the social impacts of technology to those increasingly encountering technology in social service and policy.”
To introduce learners to the complex landscape of technology policymaking and tools for shaping it, Parthasarathy’s course combines scholarly insights with real-world case studies across technology sectors around the world. She helps learners examine how technology and policy reflect and reinforce social values, biases, and politics; the power and limitations of technology in solving social problems; new ways to think about expertise, and the politics of innovation policy. Course assignments include videos, podcast episodes, a variety of readings from media, policy, and scholarly sources, short quizzes and essays, and creative simulations.
The course is designed for people from diverse professional, advocacy, and academic backgrounds, with no scientific, technical, or policy background necessary.
Parthasarathy created the course in partnership with U-M’s Center for Academic Innovation. Learn more and enroll in “Justice and Equity in Technology Policy” through Michigan Online.