Power to the Public review: How digital tech can ease global problems

Power to the Public: The promise of public interest technology

Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank

Princeton University Press

THE question of how best to use technology to meet the everyday needs of citizens is on the agenda, especially in the US, where President Joe Biden wants to “listen to science”. So far, he has embedded data experts and technologists in all his teams.

But there is a mountain to climb. “There is no solving the world’s hardest problems without governments and institutions that really work for people,” warn Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank in Power to the Public. Leaders have no prerogative to fail, the authors say.

This is a high bar: governments can and do fail their citizens. But the tricky question “why” hovers over the book. McGuinness and Schank have good credentials, though: both work for Washington DC-based think tank New America, and McGuinness was on the Biden transition team.