Dr. Michael Best‘s latest initiative at the Georgia Institute of Technology is to launch a Center for Computing and Society that will continue his work applying computer science to international development.
As a member of Georgia Tech’s faculties of both the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of Interactive Computing, he is well placed to develop the center to continue the work he did the past three years for the United Nations in China‘s special administrative region of Macau.
While on leave from Georgia Tech, he was founding director of the United National University Institute of Computing and Society where he launched programs focused on improving gender equality in technology, strove to free sex workers from abuse and to better the working lives of U.N. peacekeepers in Africa and elsewhere. Over the three years he spent in Macau his staff grew from two, including himself, to 20.
He says in a Georgia Tech news release that he returned to Tech because of its commitment “to crossing social science and the liberal arts with engineering and other sciences,” and cited the project completed by the U.N. institute to help co-found the Equals Global Partnership with the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union and other groups.
While willing to address the reasons leading to gender inequality in the information and communication technologies field in academic terms, he also is committed to on-the-ground research such as his team’s interaction with U.N. peacekeeping forces who found that the peacekeepers rarely carry bulky emergency communications gear.
His solution to the bulk problem was to propose a project to combine four devices into one. His team also worked with anti-trafficking groups on an app that improved the ability of first responders to identify and help victims of human trafficking.
The team also developed a multilingual app that allows the trafficked to answer questions in their own language and ask for help from the investigators of trafficking incidents.
“There’s nothing at the U.N. that is a single-discipline problem,” he says. “They don’t just need a social scientist. They need a social scientist who understands emerging and frontier technologies.”
To fill the need, he is working with Ellen Zegura in the School of Computer Science and Carl DiSalvo of the School of Interactive Computing to design and start the new center.
Dr. Best may be reached by email at email@example.com