Why Study Digital Tech & Public Policy in 2020

Data culture

August 25, 2020

Reading time: 4 min




How do you access the thriving world of digital innovation when you are not a coding geek? Agata talks about why she chose to study digital tech and public policy for her graduate studies.

Data regulation, internet governance, platform economics, decentralized finance, digital sovereignty… had you asked me about these terms one year ago, I would have blinked in astonishment. Now I am helping a small business draft its GDPR compliance policy, working on a project about artificial intelligence in law enforcement and, of course, contributing to this amazing blog. How do you access the thriving world of digital innovation when you are not a coding geek? For me, the answer was a master in Digital, New Technology and Public Policy, a new study field that is gaining momentum, with different variants, in universities across Europe, from Estonia to Ireland. Here are 3 good reasons to apply! 

Understand the Digital Transformation 

The era when “internet” was only the preoccupation of dark, relegated IT departments is long over: from the concerns about privacy of video conferencing tools to the debate around the origins of 5G equipment, you see digital technologies interacting with policy and law everywhere. And it could not be otherwise: as our lives move online, the forum of personal, professional, and institutional socialization becomes the cyberspace. Think about it: the digital sphere is where we shop, chat with friends, manage our savings, and stream entertainment; it’s where we work, create civic movements, read the news, produce and share knowledge. And it’s increasingly also the place where governments administer identities, collect taxes, consult citizens, and negotiate international agreements, especially since Covid-19 has disrupted our traditional, offline modes of interaction. 

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With so many aspects of our private and public lives going digital, public policy students couldn’t stay away for long. On the one hand, policymakers need to understand how to seize the opportunities and adapt to the changes brought about by the digital transformation (which is more than just the digital transition!). An inspiring example is the city of Basel, Switzerland, which Chloe recently covered. 

On the other hand, the digital transformation is exposing grey policy areas and regulatory challenges that demand public discussion: is facial recognition acceptable to ensure public security or is it a form of illegitimate state surveillance? Are our laws adequate to ensure fair competition in digital markets or do network effects and economies of scale demand new tools?  Are our institutions fit for the XXI century, or should we aim for a more inclusive, participatory digital democratic model


Customize the Curriculum to Your Interests

The digital transformation is not a stand-alone process: it cuts across almost every economic sector and social activity. This makes Digital, New Tech and Public Policy the perfect specialization for people from diverse fields with different professional projects in mind.

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David, for instance, has a background in IT and business. He embarked on this experience to better understand the regulatory, societal, and political aspects of digital tech. He became passionate about antitrust law, and now holds an internship position in the Digital Economy division of the Bundeskartellamt, the German competition authority.

Hong Hanh, on the contrary, has a background in political science and discovered the world of digital innovation while working with startups in Europe and in the US. She enrolled in the program to learn about some of the most hyped technologies of our decade, such as AI and blockchain, and she is now starting an apprenticeship at Microsoft France.

Martyna, instead, approached the tech and policy field from a digital rights perspective. She worked on facial recognition, police drones, and other forms of surveillance in think tanks and NGOs across the world before studying digital civil rights movements and victim support networks. She is now a junior PR assistant working on a privacy product at Lithuanian IT company Tesonet.

Francesco has yet a different story. A long-time European affairs student, he developed an interest in law and technology while setting up an academic conference about digital integration and the public sector. He is now a consultant in the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation of the OECD and plans to expand his expertise with some hard coding skills. 

Hongwu put this idea in practice. An international economics and trade graduate from Hangzhou, China, she travelled all the way to Paris to experience the debate culture of a public policy school. She chose the digital stream after working on social listening for a French fashion brand and is now teaching herself how to code in Python before she moves to Singapore to complete her double degree. 


Train Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow 

In the coming years, public, private and even non-profit entities will increasingly need professionals who are able to make sense of the digital transformation within a continuously evolving institutional and regulatory environment. At the same time, national, European, and international organizations will be looking for leaders to steer innovation towards the values we set out to achieve as a society. Many are already working in that direction, from the Next Generation Internet initiative to tech for good startups and projects, such as Meditect, which uses blockchain technology to fight the sale of counterfeited goods in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Digital, New Tech and Public Policy gives you the chance to become part of this new generation of professionals. During the 2 years of the master you will gain a transversal expertise and understand enough of the technicalities, economic dynamics, societal impact, and regulatory challenges around digital technologies to advise, guide or even steer their adoption and future development. 

To wrap it up, if you are passionate about digital technologies and want to have an impact on innovation in this field, digital tech and public policy is the right specialization for you. And if you are not sure yet about the profession you want to pursue, don’t worry - you’ll find out along the way, or maybe it has not been invented yet.

Thank you for the insights, Agata! Data is indeed bringing a comprehensive transformation to our world, from professional training to the way we work. If you are interested in reading more about how data is changing various professions, we have an interview series that will interest you!  

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