What is possible when thoughtful innovators from around the world have the tools to tackle the most pressing societal challenges? The Equitech Scholars program was launched by Equitech Futures in 2021 with a mission to identify and support the next generation of technology leaders from around the world working on societal challenges.
Beyond identifying highly motivated thinkers, the program challenges itself to expand the definition of who gets to build the future. “We need to reimagine the idea of a technologist in the 21st century. Every sphere of human activity, be it law, medicine, journalism, or politics is being transformed by technology. So we need tech-savvy leaders in all fields, not just programmers and engineers working at tech companies,” says Abhilash Mishra, the founder and Chief Science Officer of Equitech Futures. “Through the Equitech Scholars program, we are investing in technology leaders across all sectors and from around the world. We believe this will pay rich dividends in the future.”
As we prepare to announce our newest cohort of Equitech Scholars in 2022, we want to celebrate some of our Scholars from the inaugural class of 2021 who have embarked on exciting careers at the intersection of science, technology, and social impact.
Writing for Change
Aakriti Ghimire (Nepal, Class of 2021) completed a degree in advanced legal research at NYU Abu Dhabi in 2021. After graduating, she joined The Kathmandu Post as a journalist. Aakriti’s recent articles take on the climate crisis in Nepal and urge policy makers to invest in technologies to better adapt and respond to the climate crisis. Aakriti’s life in one of the most climate-vulnerable countries made her realize that breathing clean and fresh air is a privilege, now limited in polluted nations. This led her to write about the need to tackle this crisis in an urgent and innovative manner.
“It is a reality that I live with,” she says. “We haven't opened our windows in our home in days, and we all have begun falling sick.” Her recent article on the need for climate technology delves into impact-based weather forecasting and includes extensive climate data for regions in Nepal facing unprecedented changes in weather patterns, bringing about severe consequences for the country.
Understanding Political Movements Using Twitter
Aryan Gupta (India, Class of 2021) was surprised by the amount of global media attention received by farmers protests happening in his home city of New Delhi when the popstar Rihanna tweeted about it. As a data scientist, he wanted to understand: how much do influencers affect social and political movements? During his time as an Equitech Scholar, he embarked upon a project to understand this better.
His research resulted in a paper entitled “Political Influence of Twitter Celebrities on Mainstream Media” which was chosen for the Social Media Influencers and the New Political Economy in South Asia and Africa Conference organized by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Aryan presented his paper virtually at the conference on April 8, 2022. Following the Scholar term, Aryan continued his engagement with Equitech Futures as a supported research associate and is presently conducting research exploring racial, geographic and gender biases in foundational language models, to characterize the biases in emerging AI applications.
Applying AI to Education
Equitech Scholar Anastasiia (Stacy) Kozlovska (Ukraine, Class of 2021), joined the community once again as a research associate in 2022 and is currently working on an EdTech project that involves analyzing the clickstream data from online courses to find out the students' patterns of behavior, and to build an ML model to help predict and assist a student's learning success. She said, “Getting to know how we can use AI to improve the learning experience for many students out there is exciting and fulfilling to me, and I'm grateful to the faculty for helping me on my research journey.”
Alongside this project, Stacy is also working on a Translation AI project, for which she received the Bertelsmann Nanodegree Scholarship from Udacity. A native of Ukraine, Stacy is also planning to use the knowledge gained through the Scholars program and residency programs, along with the faculty help, to build solutions to emerging problems created by the Russia's war against Ukraine