About the Program on Liberation Technology
The Program on Liberation Technology seeks to understand how information technology can be used to defend human rights, improve governance, empower the poor, promote economic development, and pursue a variety of other social goods.
- Joshua Cohen - (Co-Principal Investigator) Professor of Political Science at Stanford University
- Larry Diamond - (Co-Principal Investigator) Director, CDDRL; Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and
- Terry Winograd - (Co-Principal Investigator) Professor of Computer Science; founding faculty member of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University
The last few years have seen explosive growth in the use of information technology to defend human rights, improve governance, fight corruption, deter electoral fraud, expose government wrongdoing, empower the poor, promote economic development, protect the environment, educate consumers, improve public health, and pursue a variety of other social goods. Lying at the intersection of social science, computer science, and engineering, the Program on Liberation Technology seeks to understand how (and to what extent) various information technologies and their applications -including mobile phones, text messaging (SMS), the Internet, blogging, GPS, and other forms of digital technology - are enabling citizens to advance freedom, development, social justice, and the rule of law. It will examine technical, legal, political, and social obstacles to the wider and more effective use of these technologies, and how these obstacles can be overcome. And it will try to evaluate (through experiment and other empirical methods) which technologies and applications are having greatest success, how those successes can be replicated, and how less successful technologies and applications can be improved to deliver real economic, social, and political benefit.
The program has several dimensions:
- Research seminars, where leading scholars and practitioners of these technologies report on what they are learning and doing. These seminars will result in reports, working papers, and academic publications, and will inform the community of affiliated scholars with the program about the latest developments in the field.
- Design seminars, where Stanford faculty and graduate students as well as other innovators and activists present their work in progress in the Design Center, and receive feedback, or ongoing forms of advice and collaboration, that help to develop new ways of utilizing technology for civic and developmental purposes.
- Hosting of postdoctoral fellows, who will enrich the research and design activity of the program with their own cutting-edge work. It is envisioned that each year the program will bring one fellow with a specialization in law or social science and one specialized in computer science or some other area of engineering.
- Small start-up grants for new research and design projects, providing seed money to principal investigators from a variety of Stanford schools and departments to begin developing new projects that innovate in the design or application of information technologies to advance such public goods as political freedom, government transparency, economic development, social justice, public health, environmental protection and/or the rule of law.
- Support of undergraduate research and conferences, to fund undergraduates pursuing senior honor's thesis research in this area, student-initiated courses, and small-scale student conferences exploring the use and development of liberation technology. It is envisioned that at least two students in the CDDRL senior honor's program each year will be pursuing theses in this area.
Working with the Program on Global Justice and individuals from the Department of Computer Science and a variety of other areas of the campus, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law hosts the Liberation Technology program and has helped to provide seed money for the initial development of the program.