Innovators Wanted-Help The President!

I WANT YOU…. Anyone who grew up in the United States, as I did, is familiar with the famous World War II recruiting poster of Uncle Sam exhorting young Americans to enlist in the armed forces. (No, I wasn’t alive then, but the poster is an icon.)

I WANT YOU Uncle Sam Poster

 

Well, Uncle Sam is calling again, not for men and women under arms, but for recent graduates, top researchers, and great innovators—in short, for creative young people who want to be agents of change in the digital world. On February 5, the White House announced round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program, a unique effort that brings incredibly talented go-getters from the private sector to work for 6 to 12 months with top government innovators to solve challenges of national importance. PIF projects are selected based on their potential to save lives, save taxpayer money, and fuel job growth.

Presidential Innovation Fellows

I am pleased to be working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy Team (OSTP) in helping to announce this second round of Presidential Innovation Fellowships, especially since the program complements my passion—familiar to regular readers of this blog—to grow the number of women and minorities in computing. The inaugural round of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows worked on five projects and did a fantastic job, but, astonishingly, the group lacked diversity, even though the United States is renowned as a “melting pot” of cultural and ethnic diversity. For round 2, the OSTP wants to do a better job of reaching a diverse audience.

This second round of the PIF program include nine projects:

Disaster Response and Recovery: Collaboratively building and “pre-positioning” needed tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters, in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.

MyUSA: Simplifying the process of finding and accessing information and government services that are right for you. Helping US businesses access the information and services that will help them grow, hire US workers, and export to foreign markets.

RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools: Making it easier for the US government to do business with small, high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of US businesses.

Cyber-Physical Systems: Working with government and industry to create standards for a new generation of interoperable, dynamic, and efficient “smart systems”—an “industrial Internet”—that combines distributed sensing, control, and data analytics to help grow new high-value US jobs and the economy.

Open Data Initiatives: Accelerating and expanding efforts to make government information resources more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spurring the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.

MyData Initiatives: Empowering the people of the United States with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data.

Innovation Toolkit: Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers the US federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.

21st Century Financial Systems: Moving financial accounting systems of US federal agencies out of the era of unwieldy agency-specific implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.

Development Innovation Ventures: Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.

If you are looking for an opportunity to make a difference, here is a chance to influence millions of lives by thinking outside of the box and building truly innovative solutions. Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique chance to serve their country and influence change on a truly massive scale. The White House will be accepting applications from February 5 through March 17, looking to put together dynamic, diverse, and innovative project teams that will produce tremendous results for the residents of the United States.

PIF applicants need not have deep technical programming skills; rather, they require an ability to think creatively, be an agent for change, and to recognize opportunities where technology can solve problems. I am asking all of you in the academic community to reach out to recent graduates and alumni that you believe can influence positive change and envision innovative solutions. And don’t count yourself out, as this could be the sabbatical of a lifetime. If you are interested in learning more and applying, please visit Presidential Innovation Fellows.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Education and Scholarly Communication Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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Women across the world Hack to help victims of Human Trafficking

According to the Department of Justice, 40 percent of all human trafficking incidents opened for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010 were for sexual trafficking of a child. The majority of these children who are bought and sold for sex are girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Eighty-three percent of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens.

The Internet is playing a central role in the rising numbers of American children sold for sex. With the Internet, the trafficker and the buyer have full anonymity and discretion in their sale and purchase of the child.

Given that Internet technology is being used for exploitation and trafficking, how might the tools and opportunities of the Internet also be used for the protection and defense of victims? How might a victim of trafficking be able to access the Internet to find her freedom?

This is one of four questions that students at university campuses around the world—including University of Washington, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, Colorado School of Mines, University of Sindh in Pakistan, University of Melbourne in Australia and universities in Colombia, Brazil, and Kenya—will have an opportunity to answer when they participate in the first-ever, international women-only hackathon this weekend, February 22–24.

Sponsored by Microsoft Research Connections, Microsoft Imagine Cup, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), the Association for Computing Machinery Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women in Engineering (IEEE-W) and Skype, the International Women’s Hackathon is a crowdsourcing event aimed at helping young women feel confident about their computer science capabilities and excited by opportunities to solve global problems. Young women will have the opportunity to create mobile, web, and social media applications as well as games to help support social issues related to women. Young women will be able to be the innovators to support three great nonprofit organizations: FAIR Girls, HumanRights4Girls and the Hindsight Group.

Bridge the Gap Video

As the Principal Research Director in Microsoft Research Connections, I focus on how we grow more women and under-represented groups in computing. For Microsoft to be the most innovative company driving technology innovations for the next 10 years and into the future, we must have diverse teams solving the world’s greatest problems by using computing. When I look back to my college experience as a mechanical engineering student taking courses in electrical and computer science engineering, I remember looking for opportunities that would enable me to make bigger impact in the world. I remember myself and my fellow women engineers looking for research opportunities that would enable us to solve more global problems and problems that also related to social issues. That is why I got involved in robotics and mechanical limbs research.

Now, 15 years later, I see the same themes as I visit campuses in the United States, Korea, and various European countries. As I Skype with young women from the Middle East, India, Latin America, and Australia, I routinely hear, “I want to make an impact and solve big world problems. Can I really do that in computer science?” In addition, I hear these young women questioning their capabilities and expressing a lack of confidence in entering hackathons and computing competitions. This is why we are launching this International Women’s Hackathon: to help young women build their confidence, their capabilities, and their networks and to help them see that they can have a significant impact in the world through computing. That they can build solutions to help victims of human trafficking get out of exploitative situations and help ensure that younger girls do not fall prey to the same exploitation.

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