Fellow Profile: Louise Lai
Where are you from? I was born in Malaysia, grew up in Australia, and now live in New York. I also lived in London and Shanghai. Cue the weird accent.
School/grad year/major: Junior at New York University, double majoring in business & political economy and computer science.
Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? It’s truly a one-of-a-kind program. I chose this over a pure software engineering role because it speaks to my diverse interests in politics, business and computer science. I was in the Microsoft data science summer school last year, and after my project presentation, John Paul Farmer, who I currently work under, came up to me and we started talking about civic tech. The rest is history.
What’s your favorite civic project in the New York? Retrofitting old payphones for WiFi. I like it for its simplicity and what it represents – scrapping the antiquated and moving onto the future.
Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? Obama. Many people don’t realize this, but he was the first president to bring in a team of techies to rebuild the digital infrastructure of Washington, which is now a permanent part of the U.S. federal government. He also created the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Read this article ‘Obama and his geeks’ and prepare to be impressed.
What excites you about civic tech? The fact that civic tech is just in its infancy excites me. It feels like a startup that is about to take off. Traditionally, government has been resistant to big changes in technology, but now, people are truly seeing the benefit of using big data and cloud services which will only create a brighter future for all.
What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Creating more efficient and inclusive public engagement.