Stanford lab rallies brain power to find tech solutions to poverty and inequality

Thu, 2016-12-08 12:45 -- Compassionate C...


Here's an intriguing collaboration based at Stanford University that aims to incubate low-cost, technology-based solutions to poverty and rising inequality, bringing together bright minds from academia, government, the nonprofit world and Silicon Valley tech companies. Definitely one to watch.  – Philip Bane


The new Poverty and Technology Lab at Stanford University was launched at the recent Summit on Technology and Opportunity hosted by the school's Center on Poverty and Inequality, the White House and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan).

Those behind the effort at Stanford acknowledge that to some extent technology has the potential to create poverty by eliminating jobs. "We want to be part of the solution by helping Silicon Valley develop technology-based solutions to problems that are, in part, technology-driven," said sociology Professor David Grusky, who directs the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The new initiative will leverage Stanford’s expertise in poverty with Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation to provide low-income people with new ways to learn about and access opportunities for education, training and work, according to a Stanford news service report.

Some examples cited:

  • Online interventions that allow first-generation college students to learn about and secure mentoring or financial aid, thus increasing college completion rates
  • Creating a website to search, rate and compare critical services that low-income residents need, such as child care, a short-term job or a micro loan

"Poverty and economic immobility is clearly a huge problem in the U.S.," said Elisabeth Mason, a co-creator of the initiative at the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. "It’s time that we get serious about designing 21st-century solutions. We can take the best lessons from the dot-com world and apply them to the dot-gov and dot-org worlds."

Speaking of lessons
Creation of the lab is tied to a sequence of classes Stanford will offer beginning winter quarter. The first will look what experts know about poverty, how it's been addressed and ultimately how to develop a new approach to ending it that uses big data and new technologies.

A follow-up class in the spring will identify the most promising solutions and students will work with the lab and its partners to begin the process of building new products and solutions.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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