Foundation to invest millions to research how tech transforms democracy
July 23, 2019 | 5:33 PM
by Times News Service
Millions will be invested in researching how tech transforms democracy.

Miami: An American non-profit foundation pledged to invest tens of millions of dollars in research to better understand how technology is transforming democracy.

The John S and James L Knight Foundation said its commitment of nearly $50 million will help ensure society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital public square.

"We’re living the most profound change in how we communicate with each other since Gutenberg invented the printing press,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation President.

“The internet has changed our lives and is changing our democracy. We have to take a step back and a step forward. To understand what is actually happening, we need independent research and insights based on data, not emotion and invective. To go forward, citizens must be engaged, and including university communities in the debate is a step in that direction.”

The non-profit's investment will fund new cross-disciplinary research at 11 American universities and research institutions, as well as the creation of five new centres of study.

“Our democracy is at an inflection point. Technology is fundamentally changing our society, yet we are flying blind. There is a need for innovative approaches that recognize the complexity of these challenges by joining computational sciences, social sciences and the humanities,” said Sam Gill, Knight vice president for communities and impact.

Gill added, “These resources are intended to spark collaborations that meet the urgent demand for new insights and ideas."

Funding for the research centers and projects are part of an a $300 million commitment made by the foundation in February to strengthen journalism and democracy.

The investments would be made to a large number of institutions, including the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public, The Center for Social Media and Politic at New York University, and The Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University among many others.

The selected research centers and projects were chosen through an open request for proposals process launched last year, which elicited more than 100 applications. The institutions are both public and private, located across the US, and represent a range of academic disciplines. All share the common goal of identifying how society can adapt to the ways in which digital technology has revolutionized the dissemination and consumption of information.

In addition to these significant investments in scholarly research, Knight has dedicated $11 million for future investments, to be announced later this year, that support policy and legal research on issues including internet governance and the implications of technology for democracy.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news