Fellow Profile: Ihsaan Patel

Aug 7, 2017   |   Ihsaan Patel, Microsoft New England Civic Tech Fellow

Where are you from? Corpus Christi, Texas

School/grad year/major: Harvard Kennedy School / 2018 / Public Policy

Last thing you searched on Bing: Places to eat lunch in Kendall Square

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I came to the Kennedy School to better understand how to use technology, particularly data science and machine learning, to improve the delivery of public services. Microsoft’s fellowship program allows me to do exactly that by helping government and non-profit organizations solve some of their problems with my technology skills.

What’s your favorite civic project in the Greater Boston area? District Hall is a unique public space that allows anyone in Boston to become a part of the excellent innovation community within the city. While I haven’t had much time to visit it during the school year, I am excited to get more involved during the summer.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I found the story of the team that fixed healthcare.gov (http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20140310,00.html) really inspiring as a testament to the impact civic tech can have on society. One of the members of the team came to speak to my class last semester and his stories helped spark my belief in the possibilities of civic tech.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New England? I’ll be working on a number of projects with different organizations in the Boston area this summer, including:

What excites you about civic tech? While technology advances at lightning-speed and transforms much of the way we live, the public sector has lagged behind in its ability to improve its own services through technology. Civic tech has the potential to leverage the opportunities provided by technology to improve the lives of all members of society, not just the most well-off.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Traffic congestion deeply affects the quality of life in cities, from a transportation, environmental, public safety, and public health perspective. Civic tech can play a role in designing systems that help reduce congestion both in planning and operations.

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