Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Knight-Georgetown Institute Announces Inaugural Executive Director

The inaugural executive director of the Knight-Georgetown Institute (KGI) officially started her position Feb. 5, aiming to spearhead the young institute in its efforts to cultivate tech policy for the common good.

Alissa Cooper will direct KGI in its mission to prepare policymakers to make informed decisions regarding technology, policy and ethics. Georgetown University established KGI in May 2023 after receiving a $30 million donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes free speech and independent journalism.

Cooper said she was drawn to KGI because of its ability to bring a wide array of people together in creating and innovating technology policy.

“I was so compelled by KGI’s mandate: to synthesize research results from across disciplines and institutions and put those results in the hands of policymakers and industry leaders in real time as they make critical decisions,” Cooper wrote to The Hoya.

The institute hopes to become a neutral, nonpartisan resource for policy makers, journalists and researchers weighing tech-related decisions.

Leticia Bode, KGI research director and a professor at the communications, culture and technology master’s program at Georgetown, said the institute strives to bridge the gap between technology and policy.

“We hope that KGI will lead the way in making connections between those researching technology and its impacts, and those responsible for making decisions about those technologies,” Bode wrote to The Hoya.

The Knight Foundation has already donated more than $100 million to support independent researchers, academics and policy makers in the technology industry.

Cooper said that she believes KGI will play a critical role in propelling democratic and open decision making for tech experts.

“In an era when digital technologies are contributing to democratic destabilization, and when the concentration of power over information production and distribution systems is in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of corporations, the work of KGI is both critical and urgent,” Cooper wrote.

According to Georgetown Provost Robert M. Groves, Cooper’s diverse resume made her an ideal candidate for the position. 

“Her experience in multiple sectors will propel forward KGI’s establishment of partnerships so key to the mission of the Institute,” Groves wrote in a press release.

Courtesy of Georgetown University / The Inaugural Executive Director of the Knight-Georgetown institute, Dr. Alissa Cooper, started on Feb. 5, leading the Institute in its exploration of the intersection of technology and policy.

Cooper is a graduate of the Oxford Internet Institute, where she received a doctorate in philosophy, and has two degrees in computer science from Stanford University.

Cooper arrives at Georgetown after spending over a decade at Cisco Systems, a communications technology company, where she focused on public policy, particularly privacy and technology standardization. 

Cooper also has a background in technology policy, as she previously served as the chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which sets global standards for internet regulation.

Bode said Cooper’s appointment comes at a crucial moment for the newfound institute, as she has the institutional experience to bring a dedicated vision to it. 

“Dr Cooper will lead the institute in defining its mission and scope,” Bode wrote. “She has a clear vision and all the right skills to implement it.” 

Cooper’s appointment also marks an important milestone for women in technology policy. She was the first woman to be named a fellow at Cisco Systems, which is the highest distinction for engineering in the company. 

Bode said that increasing diversity in technology is essential to incorporate the voices of previously underrepresented groups into the field.

“I think given how women have historically been excluded from technology development, it’s hugely important to have them involved in technology in any capacity, including studying technology in relation to society and policy,” Bode wrote. “Diversity of any kind, including gender diversity, is crucial to ensure all perspectives are brought to the table.”

Cooper echoed Bode’s welcoming of diversity in the field, but she added that the field of technology policy tends to prioritize diversity compared to other disciplines.

“We need more women,” Cooper wrote. “But, as someone who has spent decades in the network engineering community, I find that technology policy brings a welcome dose of diversity by comparison.”

Ultimately, as executive director, Cooper plans to make the KGI a nexus for researchers and policy makers in Washington D.C.

“My goal is for KGI to become a hub of collaboration where we channel connection and engagement from across Georgetown and the entire research field into actionable policy and design decisions,” Cooper wrote. “Given our location here in D.C., my aim is for KGI to become a go-to source for policymakers seeking insights about the societal impact of information technology and the online information environment.”

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