This year, Temple University is launching a new institute, based at the Law School, that will serve as a hub and organizing platform for the school’s expanding engagement on law and high tech. The Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology – or iLIT for short – will draw together the exciting strands of research and policy engagement that are possible due to the University’s vast reach and intellectual leadership in key sectors. Most importantly, iLIT will be taking on a mandate to address structural factors that have led to pronounced and persistent racial and gender disparities in these sought-after fields, beginning with the legal profession. In doing so, iLIT will join with other field leaders across industry, (including workers themselves), academia, government, and civil society calling for long-overdue changes.
In the United States today there are more patent attorneys and agents named Michael than there are patent attorneys who are racially diverse women. Federally mandated reporting data from the 177 largest Silicon Valley Tech firms showed that 7.3% of employees were Latinx and 4.4% were Black. The two groups combined held just 4.4% of executive roles. In its own special report on diversity in high tech, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identified the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington region as a top geographic area ripe for future research on employment diversity and pathways to equity and inclusion.
Securing cutting-edge opportunities for students from acutely underrepresented backgrounds to engage in practical work, receive mentorship, and build their networks advances this mission. To this end, iLIT has begun by offering student fellowships, self-directed research opportunities, an immersive cybersecurity threat response course, and a practicum focused on human rights and emerging technologies. Each year, iLIT will be hosting two scholarships awarded to students with an interest in deepening their research on the intersection of technology and society through a guided research program, working closely with iLIT leadership and affiliated faculty and partners. Candidates who are members of minority student affinity groups are strongly encouraged to apply for these opportunities.
iLIT also operates a busy student worker program. This spring, iLIT fellows already co-drafted a submission to the White House’s AI Bill of Rights initiative, and are now collaborating with the Sheller Center’s Systemic Justice Clinic to document the procurement and use of new technologies by local police departments. Over the summer, iLIT will have up to three full-time positions for students to engage in additional programmatic work – from participating in the current negotiations for a United Nations cybercrime convention to conducting original research on corporate self-regulation to address the risks of biometrics, automation, and predictive technology in the public sector.
Tech firms compete in global markets and undertake their work in a global geopolitical context that is increasingly complex and splintered. Decades of technologically driven globalization mean that it is critical for students to have access to global regulatory, normative, and ethical debates about the rapid growth of new technology. This is a challenge that iLIT’s team is eager to embrace. Later this month, for example, iLIT will convene a discussion on efforts to decolonize AI innovation at the annual Mozilla Festival, an industry event that draws thousands of stakeholders. The panel discussion will feature insights from the recent award-winning book by Temple Law Professor Olufunmilayo Arewa, Disrupting Africa: Technology, Law, and Development, as well as contributions from other leading thinkers researching and supporting African digital transformation, digital economy, and digital rights.