Classes (CICS 127)

Introduction to Public Interest Technology


CICS 127 – Introduction to Public Interest Technology

Course Description:

Introduction to Public Interest Technology 

Today’s world is complex and tech-driven. How do we use the tools of information technology to solve problems in a socially responsible way, i.e. in a way that both empowers us and promotes the well-being of the communities in which we live?

In this course, we describe the socio-technical world and pragmatic strategies for promoting personal and social responsibility. We explore the questions: What is the public interest in a socio-technical world? What strategies can we use to promote social responsibility in the public sector, private sector and general public? What can each of us do to make the world a better place?

This course is for everyone at all levels and with all interests. No programming or prerequisites are required. We focus on building skills to think analytically, broadly and strategically, as well as to communicate effectively about complex problems with societal impact. Course lectures will be given by Public Interest Technologist and Professor Fran Berman, a diverse group of instructors from across the UMass campus and potential guest lecturers, all coordinated to introduce students to the emerging field of Public Interest Technology. Assignments will provide students multiple paths to success.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course you should be able to …

  • Develop greater literacy about tech and the impacts of tech: Understand the basics and impacts of the digital technologies used to solve complex problems.
  • Broaden your understanding of the public interest and strategies to promote it: Expand your understanding of how tech and its impacts can be managed by the public sector, private sector and individuals to promote the public interest. Sample strategies that promote the public interest in a variety of areas, applications and sectors.
  • Develop writing and presentation skills: Storytelling and mastering the art of the 1-2 pager are important skills for any profession. This course will give you practice, feedback, and multiple opportunities for improving your writing and speaking/discussion skills.
  • Expand critical thinking, assessment and communication skills: Learn to read popular and scholarly literature for ideas, strategies, and impact. Learn to communicate to a diverse set of stakeholder and general audiences about complex problems, strategies and solutions more effectively.

Course at a Glance

  • Section 1: What is the Public Interest? What is Public Interest Technology?
  • Section 2: The Socio-technical World: Fundamentals and Impacts
  • Section 3: Strategies to Promote the Public Interest in the Public Sector, Private Sector, General Public
  • Section 4: Making a difference — Public Interest Technology groups, individuals, student projects

There is no textbook for the course; all materials will be available on the course website. 

View highlights from the spring 2023 semester.

For more information, contact Professor Fran Berman,