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Columbia SIPA offers an array of innovative classes for policy students around topics related to cybersecurity, internet governance and the digital economy, as well as capstone workshops providing students with practical experiences on such cutting-edge issues.


Spring 2018


Programming for Entrepreneurs, by Sameer Maskey

In this course, students learn the fundamentals of programming so you can start writing web applications that can potentially be used in non-profit or public sectors. 4-day workshop.

Tools and Craft of Multi-Platform Storytelling, by Chris Booker (TMaC)

The web opens up exciting possibilities for interaction and new ways to tell stories. We'll introduce students to the world of multimedia storytelling and how it can be applied to organizations working in International Affairs and Development.

Technology for International Crisis Response & Good Governance, by Nick Martin (TMaC)

The advent of new technologies has fundamentally changed the capacity for processing and exchanging information. NGOs, governments, and companies alike are just beginning to understand the potential that these tools and systems can have in analyzing and addressing a range of social problems. This course will explore how technology is being used to respond to international crises, create early warning mechanisms, monitor elections, provide banking services, ensure effective governance, and much more. It will also take a critical approach and consider key challenges related to access, privacy, implementation, scale, and evaluation based on evidence that working with technology presents. The course is designed for graduate students to assist them in developing strategies and technological skills to work amid this rapidly evolving landscape. Students can expect a hands-on and interactive learning environment with a variety of examples from organizations working in the field.

Digital Media Management, by Dorian Benkoil

“Every business is a media business.” Those words have been frequently said. Every business executive needs to understand how to use media to gain competitive advantage. This course will teach students about the media business, how it is changing, the technologies involved, and what media executives are doing to position their businesses amid severe disruptions that are also creating new opportunities. Students will learn the strategies, techniques and technologies used in digital media and learn to understand, analyze and implement them for business purposes. This course is especially relevant in New York, the media business center of the United States and much of the world. Students not only learn the theory of media business but also apply the lessons in their own entrepreneurial media project.

Technology and the Future of Governance and Public Policy, by Hollie Russon Gilman & Ari Wallach (Mgmt)

The course will help future policymakers think about how to benefit the public sector in an era in which burgeoning access to digital technology holds great potential to change governance and policy-making.

Data Analysis for Policy Research and Program Evaluation, by Harold Stopler

This course will provide students with a hands-on introduction to preparing, analyzing, and presenting data for policy analysis and program evaluation using Stata. Students will be given instruction on how to apply statistical concepts from Quantitative Methods I in order to answer a given policy question. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on data assignments, students will develop a general knowledge of statistical programming (e.g., generating and organizing Stata code), data analysis (performing and interpreting descriptive analysis and regressions), data visualizations (tables and charts), and how to best present their results. These skills will be reinforced through a short data project of the student’s choosing to be presented in the final class.1 The larger goal of this course is to help students become effective data analysts: given the available data, what sort of analysis would allow us to best answer the research question at hand? How can we implement this analysis using Stata, and how can we begin to draw conclusions about the causal effects of programs and policies and not just correlation?

Civic Innovation and Building a People-Centered Government, by Evagelia Tavoulareas (TMaC)

This course explores what innovation actually means in government, what it looks like, and how it happens. The goal of this course is to prepare students for working creatively in a policy environment, and finding new solutions to complex human problems, in a manner that prioritizes people over politics and bureaucracy. To this end, the course takes a blended and hands-on approach to learning, combining reading and lectures with design studios, and guest speakers who will provide a firsthand narrative of their experience with innovation in government. Guest speakers will include people who have been able to develop and implement new systems within government such as rescuing healthcare.gov and modernizing our immigration system.

Communications Policy in the Digital Age, by Peter Micek (TMaC)

Students should be interested in international policy fora on human rights, trade, and technological standards. They should be eager to know what's at risk in internet regulation and policy, and ways to navigate those risks to maximize benefits to stakeholders including users, governments, and the private sector.

Data-Driven Approaches for Campaigns and Advocacy, by Mark Steitz (TMaC)

This class focuses on proper understanding and use of a wide range of tools and techniques involving data, analytics, and experimentation by campaigns. We will study evolutions and revolutions in data-driven advocacy and campaigns, starting with polling and continuing through micro-targeting, random controlled experiments, and application of insights from behavioral science.

Entrepreneurship for the New (Technology) Economy, by Hilary Gosher and John Eley

The course objective is to expose students to the skills and knowledge required to be successful entrepreneurs in the tech economy. The course will examine the capabilities required to build a business that uses technology as an enabler or as a primary offering with a review of both the B2C and B2B landscapes. Students will be required to create an actual “start-up” in teams.

Technology, National Security & the Citizen, by Alexis Wichowski (ISP, TMaC)

This course will examine how digital technology is transforming the national security landscape, altering roles and power relationships for governments, citizens, and social movements.

Dynamics of Cyber Conflict, by Jason Healey (ISP, TMaC)

This class examines the dynamics of cyber conflict. We will focus less on the technology of cyberspace than the national security threats, challenges, and policy responses including lessons from history and other kinds of conflict. After taking this course, you will understand about the Internet and Internet-based attacks; how cyber conflicts unfold at the tactical and strategic levels; how cyber conflicts and cyber power are different or similar to conflict and power in other domains; the evolution of US cyber policies and organizations; as well as legal issues and the policies and organizations of other nations. The centerpiece of the course is an exercise to reinforce the fundamentals of national security response to a major cyber incident. Accordingly, you will demonstrate the ability to formulate policy recommendations in the face of the uncertainties of an unfolding cyber conflict. 

Using Big Data to Develop Public Policy, by Francesco Brindisi (USP)

Big Data is a critical resource for understanding and solving public policy challenges. In this course we will cover the role of government in collating, sharing and using big data. We will provide an applied understanding of data analytic tools and approaches to policy. This course is designed to bridge the gap between the statistical theory and real-world challenges of using big data in public policy. You will work in groups to develop policy proposals using the DATA2GO.NYC data set. DATA2GO.NYC was developed with the intention of empowering community members to understand the areas in which they work, play, and live by providing open access to aggregated city data. You will use the data set to conduct deep analyses on an issue and to ultimately develop a policy proposal.

Introduction to Cyber Threat Intelligence, by JD Work (ISP)

This course is an introduction to the fundamental of cyber intelligence analysis. Students will be introduced to the basics of the practice and will be able to perform many of the tasks expected of the professional analyst by the end of the course. The course will focus on three areas: practical research skills, subject matter expertise on adversaries and their methods, and intelligence analysis tradecraft applied to the cybersecurity field.  Some prior technical expertise, such as another SIPA cyber-related class, is expected.

Tech, Policy, and Culture in the Developing World: Living on the Edge, by Ronaldo Lemos

How does technology transform institutions? My course will analyze the role of information and telecommunication technologies (TICs) for developing countries, focusing on policy issues such as privacy, net neutrality, surveillance, free speech, digital democracy, civic technologies, social networks, financial inclusion, and more. It will also discuss cultural and social changes emerging from the use of technology: political polarization and radicalization, the impact of technology for politics, social issues online (feminism, alt-right, online hate speech, media piracy), emerging musical and cultural scenes at the peripheries, using the Internet to make laws, and more. To address these issues, the course will discuss and the role of new technologies to the developing world, such as: cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin, Artificial Intelligence, social networks, machine learning, technology and the legal system, big data, e-citizenship, inequality and technology, copyright, Creative Commons, DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), the “sharing economy”, smart contracts, blockchain, Ethereum and more. The focus is Latin America and Brazil, but we will go much beyond.

FALL 2017

GIS for International Studies, by Gregory Yetman

This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and remote sensing technologies as they are used in a variety of social and environmental science applications.

Programming for Entrepreneurs, by Sameer Maskey

In this course, students learn the fundamentals of programming so you can start writing web applications that can potentially be used in non-profit or public sectors. 4-day workshop.

Media Campaigning and Social Change, by Anya Schiffrin & Minky Worden (TMaC)

This course will examine the role that different kinds of media have played in raising awareness about human rights, labor issues and political change over time and across countries. We will look at how media, social media and NGOs can take on a campaigning role in raising awareness about social problems and holding governments accountable. We will plan and execute advocacy campaigns, write letters and op-eds and tweet about contemporary human rights problems. We will also discuss how to measure impact and spend time learning hands-on skills such as scraping data from social media to see the response to major campaigns. This semester our course will emphasize labor rights, media freedom and women in sports.

Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization, instructor Dino Sossi (TMaC)

This course introduces students to design principles and techniques for effective data visualization. Visualizations graphically depict data to foster communication, improve comprehension and enhance decision-making. This course aims to help students: understand how visual representations can improve data comprehension, master techniques to facilitate the creation of visualizations as well as begin using widely available software and web-based, open-source frameworks. 7-week course.

Computing in Context: Public Policy, by Adam Cannon and Gregory Falco

This introductory course will explore computing concepts and coding in the context of solving policy problems.  Such problems might include troubleshooting sources of environmental pollution, evaluating the effectiveness of public housing policy or determining the impact that local financial markets have on international healthcare or education. Using policy scenarios as examples, students will be exposed to topics including: requirements gathering, data collection, data cleansing, writing pseudocode and code, using Python packages to help solve policy problems, presenting technical solutions and the constraints of computing. The hands-on nature of the class will help students to develop a strong, transferable skill-set that could be applied to both current coursework and future employment.  Between the computer science and policy context lectures, students will see how computer science will become a fundamental component of their policy analysis education.

Cybersecurity: Technology, Policy, and Law, by Jason Healey

This seminar will bring together professors and select students from three schools to discuss how different disciplines solve cybersecurity issues. Classes will cover the technical underpinnings of the Internet and computer security; the novel legal aspects from technology, crime and national security; and the various policy problems and solutions involved in this new field.

Data-Driven Government and Evidence-Based Policymaking, by Venkat Motupalli

Over the last ten years, the dramatic increase in cheap, easily accessible technology to share and analyze data means that government agencies can draw on ever more information when designing policies. Future policymakers who educate themselves and their colleagues on modern tech and approaches will have a distinct advantage: understanding what good data is, and how to acquire it. While this course won’t make students data scientists, it will show how to both maximize potential for existing information and teach how to ask the right questions to get to required answers. The course will teach and use techniques in MS Excel, R, Python, and Tableau that are both effective and easily replicable outside the classroom.

The Panama Papers, by Jenik Radon and Anya Schiffrin (TMaC)

This class takes a multidisciplinary approach (journalism, economics, law, policy, etc.) on how digital technology and philanthropy has contributed to the new wave of reporting. How can the objective of reporting in the public interest be balanced with the right to privacy?  When does journalism have an impact and what will it take for the Panama Papers to cause policy changes around the world? Why is it detrimental to the growth of an economy to allow the flow of financial capital around the globe? Can governments really require lawyers, corporate service companies and banks to collect beneficial ownership information on clients, some of which may have perfectly legitimate reasons to remain anonymous? Should disclosure of the beneficial owners of corporations be mandatory? Something the Panama Papers made clear is that it is not a problem with Panama alone. Rather, it is a global one enabled by the lack of proper regulation of international financial markets and governments’ failure to coordinate on these issues, let alone adequately enforce such regulations. On a more fundamental level, do we need a re-evaluation of how our market system works – or doesn’t work?


Capstone Workshops


Mapping the Conversation: From Big Data to the Real Voices of Trump Supporters and Opposers

Client: Alto Data Analytics

After shocking the world with his victory last November and a year into his presidency, many want to understand who really supports Donald Trump, who opposes him, what media sources are used to build their narratives and how they interpret the political dynamics of the last year. Alto Data Analytics is an international data firm based in Spain that provides software and big data services to public, private and non-profit organizations around the world, among them IKEA, Telefonica, Oxfam, Santander, the UN and the BBC. Bringing to the table their ability to understand digital narratives and pinpoint key influencers, Alto will collaborate with SIPA Capstone Workshop team in researching the real voices of influential Trump supporters and opposers and painting a broad picture of his impact on political conversations. As recent elections in France and Kenya demonstrate, flows of political information are increasingly complex, fragmented and volatile in many countries around the world. The proposed analysis is relevant on a broad global context for those interested in public policies on information and communications.

How Governments Strategically Harness Technology in the 21st Century

Client: Eurasia Group

Eurasia Group is a political risk consulting and advisory firm, with a network of experts and resources in 90 countries. They specialize in helping clients understand how politics and markets interact around the world. This year’s Capstone project will focus on how different governments use various forms of technology to achieve their policy objectives. Technology can empower people, and it can empower governments; oftentimes, it does both simultaneously. This project looks to compare and contrast different approaches governments have taken to dealing with AI, cyber warfare, and big data/surveillance.

Assessing Social Media-Driven Influence Operations in Latin America

Client: FireEye

FireEye provides organizations with nation-grade level tactical, operational and strategic intelligence. It collects and correlates information on the motivations, intentions, and methods of attackers to help organizations proactively assess the risks that they face, detect and prevent attacks, and build the attack context for the alerts that they face.

After the suspected involvement of the Russian government in the 2016 US election (and European elections in 2017), FireEye is interested in studying if similar activity in smaller nations—in particular, in Latin America. The objective of this Capstone is to examine the influence operations threat landscape in Latin America, from the perspective of regional governments, with a focus on social media platforms. In particular, this project will examine how regional governments:

  • Perceive cyber threats in general
  • Perceive the cyber threat of influence operations
  • Plan to address influence operations cyber threats.

Estonia, The Skype Nation—How a Small Nation Can be a Global Leader and Punch Above its Weight

Client: Government of Estonia

The Capstone team will be tasked with creating a policy and strategy answering the question of what it takes for Estonia to continue to be a global thought leader, pushing above its weight so-to-speak, and assist it to develop a common platform for small nations to pursue and advance, including the establishment of supporting associations and institutions for small nations. The platform is to set forth a strategic and implementable program that is embedded in the international rule of law and in international institutions so that Estonia and other small nations can prosper economically, culturally, socially and politically.  The challenge is similar to what the island nations of the world confronted in creating a common international platform on their challenges, in particular the challenges presented by rising sea levels, climate change and non-continental geographical locations.

Best Practices and Policies for an Ever More AI Dependent World

Client: IBM GBS: Watson AI Center of Competence

IBM considers the term “artificial intelligence” outdated and limited in application.  Their approach to cognitive computing is more accurately defined as “augmented intelligence.” IBM believes its true value lies in complementing human intelligence, rather than replicating it, allowing enterprises to make better, data-driven decisions, and focus on tasks where human judgement, intuition and values are paramount. IBM also recognizes that AI is misunderstood by many, including policymakers, and if often being mischaracterized. Prominent and influential voices are peddling fearful visions of a future where AI leads to mass replacement of human workers, or worse. To address such concerns, the Capstone team will compare and assess the current “for and against” positions of leading industry thinkers and technology experts on the ethical, governance and other non-economic risks posed by the increasing use of AI.

Counting on the Cloud: Implications of Third-Party Vendor Risk on Financial Stability in the Cyber Age

Client: Institute for International Finance

The Institute of International Finance is the global association of the financial industry, with close to 500 members from 70 countries. Its mission is to support the financial industry in the prudent management of risks; to develop sound industry practices; and to advocate for regulatory, financial and economic policies that are in the broad interests of its members and foster global financial stability and sustainable economic growth.

The Capstone team will work with IIF to evaluate financial industry (predominately banks and securities firms) third-party vendors as a transmission channel for cyber risk and a potential risk to financial stability. Cloud computing companies will serve as a case study for this analysis. Vendor risks exist due to the fact that (most) financial firms are outsourcing their business and customer data to third party Cloud computing companies (“the Cloud”), especially the main players: Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft. Liaising directly with IIF's global membership to conduct primary market research, the team will provide a second level of analysis that would include determining how companies protect themselves against this “vendor risk” and how this is addressed from a regulatory or policy perspective.

E-Commerce Last Mile Logistics

Client: Inter-American Development Bank

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is the leading development institution for Latin America and Caribbean countries (LAC). They asked the Capstone team to provide an in-depth analysis on how a product that is bought by a person living in New York City, Shanghai or Tokyo is prepared and delivered to the end-customer´s address. The objective of this Capstone is to gain valuable insight on how to develop an economic and regulatory framework which can be used as the basis of future studies of last-mile logistics of e-commerce in Latin American countries. The Capstone team will develop a supply chain model for the last-mile for both non-perishables and perishables, compare the cultural, economic and market structures for the target cities.

NATO and the Role of Cyber Capabilities for Strategic Stability and Deterrence

Client: New America Cybersecurity Initiative

New America’s Cybersecurity Initiative is a cross-Program initiative designed to leverage various New America Programs (especially the International Security Program and New America’s Open Technology Institute) to bring fresh ideas and perspective to the cybersecurity policy debate.

NATO's primary mission is to prevent war. Cyber capabilities complicate that for many reasons, primarily by blurring the line between war and peace. They have the potential create instability between countries—both in terms of changing the offensive opportunities and defensive vulnerabilities—as well as the potential to undermine important strategic balances that have been established over decades, not least in the nuclear balance, underpinned by space and ballistic missile defense capabilities. This Capstone workshop will seek to address questions like: How do you achieve strategic stability in this new environment? Can you use cyber capabilities to strengthen deterrence? If so, what is the role of NATO in using cyber tools to deter threats below the level of armed conflict? How do you manage what Allies do nationally given the overarching aim of the Alliance? And how do you prepare for war without undermining stability?

Addressing Violence through a Public Health Response

Client: New York City center for Innovation and Data Intelligence (CIDI)

Violence of all forms affects New York City, devastating families and communities. The prevailing paradigm treats violence as a moral corruption or human failing that requires punitive strategies to correct and control; however, increasingly research demonstrate that a purely punitive solution does little to address the root cause of violence and that strategies used to address public health, such as approaches that focus on preventing events, providing treatment for people at the most risk and changing social expectations are more effective in responding to community violence.  Reducing violence means safer and healthier communities.  NYC CIDI has proposed to have the Capstone team to examine the theoretical, operational and mitigation strategies associated with responding to violence through a public health lens.

The Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI) is the data intelligence team in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (HHS). CIDI’s direct initiative is to provide data-driven insight to areas of need throughout the city and to highlight areas where HHS can have the most effective and efficient outcomes for clients.

Developing the Pipeline for Good-paying Jobs of the “New Economy”

Client: New York City Mayor's Office of Workforce Development

Increasing acccess to good-paying jobs in New York is the a key initiative of the De Blasio administration and provides a clear path to the middle class for many low-income families struggling to support their families in the city.  As part of the New York Works Job Plan, released in 2016 by Mayor De Blasio, the City of New York will invest in growth sectors that offer good-paying jobs, including Cybersecurity and Life Sciences. As part of this initiative, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development has asked a Capstone team to analyze career paths in both the Cybersecurity and Life Sciences sectors to develop a tool to provide guidance for various ways to enter these fields—starting from entry level positions through to mid-level and executive level professions with various entrance points, including students from the community college system or Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.  How do the skills required for these fields differ from more traditional employment, such as IT systems manager?  How can the City of New York shift resources to prepare local jobseekers, particularly those without advanced degrees, to access these opportunities? The team would then also produce an asset mapping diagram that identifies the key resources available to support these careers (including industry partnerships, the CUNY system, various training programs supported through multiple city agencies) and provide recommendations for ways the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development can continue to support development and employment opportunities in these sectors.  

Identifying and Responding to Russian (Mis-)Information

Client: RAND

Building on previous Capstone projects, this project will focus on NATO and Russia but examines Russia’s ability to use information (and disinformation) to erode trust in our, and our allies’, democratic institutions. Russia has specifically increased its use of mis-information and media manipulation to erode support for NATO (see Kepe, https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/06/nato-prepared-for-countering-disinformation-operations.html); the latest front of this campaign seems to have been the United States.  The Capstone team will analyze how Russia uses information in this capacity; what the effects of Russian information campaigns have been and could be for the U.S. and its NATO allies, including analysis of possible worst-case scenarios; and what policy lessons can be gleaned from Russian successes as well as failures. The end product would be a list of best practices for the US and allied governments.

From Sugar Cane to Digital Services: ICT Challenges for Réunion Island

Client: Regional Council of the Island of Réunion

Réunion has a population of about 840,000. With an unemployment rate of 24.6% in 2015 (compared to 9.3% in Metropolitan France), one of the challenges faced by the island is how to accelerate economic opportunities in the face of strong demographic growth and the decline of some of the sectors of the economy such as the cultivation of sugar cane. Currently, the economy of Réunion is heavily subsidized by Metropolitan France and the European Union, its main trading partners (the island has very little economic ties with its neighboring countries in Africa). In order to address this challenge, Région Réunion is actively promoting the development and use of information and communications technology (ICT) in order to transform Réunion into a “smart city” island.

The objective of the SIPA Capstone team will be to prepare a strategic growth plan that will help Région Réunion determine the best opportunities to pursue within the smart city concept. This will entail, among other things, analyzing how other cities/islands have used ICT to improve the quality and sustainability of urban life (e.g. mobility, waste management, water management, energy management, e-governance and services to citizens, etc.), and how such initiatives spurred economic growth. Another critical aspect of the project will be to determine how to leverage the benefits of a data-rich society while minimizing threats to individual privacy and civil liberties.

Applications for the Emerging Blockchain Ecosystem

Client: TechPar Group

TechPar Group consists exclusively of high-level, high-achieving IT executives who are industry movers and shakers—leaders who made their mark while also making a difference. They would like the Capstone team to characterize the emerging Blockchain ecosystem, such as describing the underlying technologies and platforms, competing standards, and various applications. In addition, the Capstone will also explore current and potential regulatory issues (international, national and state level) and the barriers/challenges facing early adopters. Lastly, the team will also evaluate the alternatives for raising capital for Blockchain startups (e.g. traditional venture capital and IPO vs. ICO).

Using Big Data to Prevent Conflict

Client: United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office

The use of big data in peacebuilding is still in its infancy but an area of great interest and potential impact. The UN is currently undertaking a pilot program in Somalia that tracks fast amount of written and spoken data from social media and radio programs to understand the needs and concerns of the Somali people and their perceptions of the peacebuilding process, the extension of state authority, Al-Shabaab etc. Recognizing the importance big data can play in strengthening the peacebuilding work of the UN, and PBSO is undertaking an initial research on how big data can contribute to peacebuilding.

The proposed project will build on this initial research. The team will develop concrete proposals for how to use big data to the advantage of peacebuilding. It  will take a deep dive in one or more of the avenues identified in the initial research by PBSO. The project will include analysis of relevant big data to elucidate challenges, strengths and weaknesses that may arise in such projects and the nature of the insights that can be developed. 

Innovation in Women Programming—Understand the Potential of Using Twitter Data Combined with Traditional Survey Data to Measure Societal Dynamics Related To Violence Against Women (VAW) In Brazil

Client: United Nations Women

UN Women is interested in the use of Big Data to track real time movement for indicators relevant to the mission of UN Women.  The objective of this project is to understand the potential of using Twitter data combined with traditional survey data to measure societal dynamics related to violence against women (VAW) in Brazil, where the rates of homicide have been rising since 2007. Brazil is among the top 5 of countries in the world with higher rates of femicide, with 4.8 femicide per 100,000 women in 2013 (just below El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala and Russia and followed by Mexico). The underlying hypothesis is that Twitter analytics gauge societal attitudes towards VAW by amplifying events reported by the media and, when analyzed from a longitudinal perspective, it may provide evidence for changes in public opinion over time. The use of Twitter data can also monitor progress towards SDG 4.2, which is to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. The research findings from this Capstone will be useful when discussing larger implications for policy making from using big data in comparison to traditional survey data.

Urban Futures, Technology and Military Operations: Managing Disaster, Terror, and Tanks in 2020-2040

Client: United States Chief of Staff of the Army, Army Future Studies Group (AFSG)

The Army Future Studies Group (SSG) conducts independent, unconventional, and revolutionary research and analysis to generate operational and strategic concepts for future land forces as directed by Army leadership. This Capstone project will focus on the challenges of future (2020-2040) military operations in dense urban areas. These operations include civil support & disaster relief missions, counter terrorism and counterinsurgency, and major combat operations. The Capstone team will focus on the technological and civil dimensions of this problem, with the AFSG providing military expertise as required. Topical areas of interest include:

  • What are potential types of future technologies that will impact military operations; e.g. advanced information systems, robotic ground vehicles, aerial surveillance systems, etc.? How may these technologies be employed in dense urban areas and what are their implications for military operations?
  • What useful assumptions can be made about the physical configuration of future urban landscapes and the functions of urban ecosystems, based on the potential impacts of new technologies, new/improved infrastructure systems, population growth, changing patterns of economic activity, etc.?

Cyber Analogies in Comparative Perspective

Client: United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM)

USCYBERCOM supports the systematic exploration of analogies to the cyber domain that can inform and educate stakeholders across government, industry, and the public; inform different options and courses of action; enhance understanding of the cyber domain and its attributes; and stimulate discourse on cyber issues and priorities. USCYBERCOM also wants to understand the analogies used by other countries—friends, partners, and potential adversaries.

The Capstone Workshop will explore the seminal analogies they use for the cyber domain (in other words, what is the equivalent of their “cyber Pearl Harbor”?)

Key questions the Capstone will provide:

  • Overview of the analogy (Is it a conceptual or historical analogy? What is the narrative around it that applies to cyber?).
  • What aspects of the cyber environment, mission, and problematic does the analogy highlight?
  • Who advocates for this analogy? How widespread is its use?
  • What is the effect of the analogy?

Social Media and Violent Extremism: Strategies and Methods to Identify, Monitor, and Influence Extremist Behavior Online

Client: United States Department of State - Global Engagement Center

The Global Engagement Center is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department, which is charged with coordinating U.S. counterterrorism messaging to foreign audiences. It was established pursuant to Executive Order 13721, signed on March 14, 2016, which states that the Center “shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” such as ISIL. The Capstone team was asked to identify the most effective strategies in influencing behavior through online communications. They will analyze best-practices in online communication for behavior change from non-counterterrorism related fields such as marketing, public health, sociology, youth anti-gang, anti-bullying, anti-suicide programs, etc. and explore how they can be applied to programs which seek to intervene into the process or radicalization towards violence.

Innovation and Technology in UN Peace Operations

Client: United States Mission to the United Nations

The Capstone Workshop will focus on exploring the application of new technologies to UN peace operations, specifically through an analysis of the needs and challenges faced by the UN, along with a proposal of cutting-edge technologies that can be operated in the UN context. Despite the need for new technologies – such as situational awareness capabilities, integrated communication platforms, emergency location and communication equipment, improved explosive device detection and mitigation technology, and early warning systems for the protection of UN troops – UN peacekeeping and political missions often work with rudimentary or outdated tools.   They have been slow to adopt new technology and to identify how new technology could fill existing capability gaps, often due to hurdles erected by those countries hosting UN missions, UN member states, the Security Council, and the UN bureaucracy itself.

The Capstone Workshop will analyze the experience of the UN with modern technologies in peace operations to date; survey the technological needs of a selection of key UN missions; identify how technology can improve mandate delivery and peace operation performance; and categorize the main operational, political, and bureaucratic challenges preventing the adoption of mission-critical innovations in UN peace operations. With this information, the Capstone will explore developing technologies and private sector solutions applicable to the selected UN peace operations, taking into account the particular challenges confronted by the UN. The outcome of the Capstone will be an actionable report detailing proposals for specific technologies and innovative approaches that could be deployed in UN peace operations in response to identified gaps.


In previous years

Spring 2017

INAF U6004: Programming for Entrepreneurs, taught by Sameer Maskey

INAF U6120: Tools and Craft of Multi-Platform Storytelling, taught by Chris Booker

INAF U6144: Media Campaigning and Social Change, taught by Anya Schiffrin & Minky Worden

INAF U6198: Technology for International Crisis Response & Good Governance, taught by Nick Martin

INAF U6202: Communications Policy in the Digital Age, taught by Peter Micek

INAF U6203: Digitial Activism, taught by Jason Ng

INAF U6382: Technology, National Security & the Citizen, taught by Alexis Wichowski

INAF U6386: Policy Dilemmas in Cybersecurity, taught by Jason Healey

INAF U6508: Using Big Data to Develop Public Policy, taught by Francesco Brindisi

INAF U6511: Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization, taught by Dino Sossi

INAF U6512: Data-Driven Approaches for Campaigns and Advocacy, taught by Mark Steitz

INAF U6515: Technology and the Future of Governance and Public Policy, taught by Hollie Russon Gilman & Ari Wallach

INAF U6516: Entrepreneurship for the New (Technology) Economy: Launching & Executing a Tech Business, taught by Hilary Gosher

INAF U6517: Tech, Policy, and Culture in the Developing World: Living on the Edge, taught by Ronaldo Lemos

INAF: U6379: Privacy, Secrecy and Surveillance - History and the Future, taught by Matthew Connelly

INAF U8254 How to Manage the Regulatory Conflicts and Opportunities of the Digital Economy, taught by Eli Noam

PUAF U6135 Civic Innovation and Building a People-Centered Government, taught by Evagelia Tavoulareas

SIPA U4022 Research, Design & Prototype a Mobile App, taught by Matthew Weber

Fall 2016

ENVP U6275: GIS for International Studies, taught by Malanding Jaiteh

INAF U6004: Programming for Entrepreneurs, taught by Sameer Maskey

INAF U6006: Computing in Context, taught by Adam Cannon and Gregory Falco

INAF U6120: Tools and Craft of Multi-Platform Storytelling, taught by Chris Booker

INAF U6209: E-Government & Digital Diplomacy, taught by Alexis Wichowski

INAF U6211: Technology Solutions for Development & Social Change, taught by Eric Cantor

INAF U6383: Dynamics of Cyber Power and Conflict, taught by Jason Healey

INAF U6924: The Panama Papers, taught by Jenik Radon and Anya Schiffrin

INAF U8217: Tools and Principles for Managing in the Information Economy and the Media Sector, taught by Eli Noam

PUAF U6212: Digital Media Management, taught by Dorian Benkoil

SIPA U4020: Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization, taught by Dino Sossi

Internet Technology, Economics and Policy, taught by Henning Schulzinne (cross-registration required as course taught in the Engineering School)

Capstones workshops 2016-2017

Cyber Security, Big Data, Infrastructure, Mobile Marketing, Social Media-- AXA Strategic Ventures Survey Tristate Area CIOs and IT groups on IT Spending Changes

Client: AXA Strategic Ventures

AXA Strategic Ventures has asked the Capstone team to examine emerging trends in IT development for a select group of companies to provide targeted recommendations to ASV for key priorities in IT development in the near term. The team will survey select companies in the tristate area to speak with the decision makers for IT budgets to understand how their priorities have shifted in recent years and how much allocation for cyber security, big data, infrastructure, mobile marketing, social media and other top priorities.

Identifying Correlations between Cyber Health and Socioeconomic Conditions

Client: CyberGreen      

CyberGreen is a global non-profit and collaborative organization conducting activities focused on helping to improve the health of the global Cyber Ecosystem. As part of its global cyber health analysis initiative, CyberGreen has asked the Capstone team to explore the correlations between political systems/socioeconomic conditions and levels of cyber health. By using existing data, literature and indices to measure cyber maturity, cyber readiness etc. as well as CyberGreen's own proprietary technical ecosystem health index, CyberGreen seeks to draw both quantitative and qualitative conclusion regarding correlations, analyze causation related to impact on cyber health, and recommendations about how its efforts can be more effectively focused to improve cyber health.

Technology and the 21st Century State

Client: Eurasia Group

Eurasia Group is a political risk consulting and advisory firm, with a network of experts and resources in 90 countries. They specialize in understanding how politics and markets interact around the world. This year, the Eurasia Group Capstone project will focus on technology’s impact on a state’s ability to govern. This project will analyze the impact three critical technological trends are having on political stability: the rise of communications technology, coming automation and the risk to service sector jobs, the waging of cyber warfare.

Labor Market Drivers of Future Cyber Threat Activity

Client: FireEye

FireEye iSIGHT Intelligence provides organizations with nation-grade level tactical, operational and strategic intelligence. It collects and correlates information on the motivations, intentions, and methods of attackers to help organizations proactively assess the risks that they face, detect and prevent attacks, and build the attack context for the alerts that they face. The aim of this Capstone project is to examine various labor market drivers of cyber threat activity globally, especially the supply of hackers/offensive cyber talent. The team has been asked to develop a methodology for predicting growth or trends in cyber threat activity derived from data. Based on economic/demographic data identified, the team will also identify which countries are most likely to be future hotbeds of cyber threat activity.

Beyond Fitbit: Trends and Healthcare Policy Considerations for the Cognitive Internet of Things

Client: IBM Market Development and Insights Group

There are a massive number of connected devices in the world – dubbed the “Internet of Things” (IoT) – and the data they can provide can now be analyzed by highly sophisticated analytics, including cognitive systems. IoT and cognitive computing have the potential to reshape entire industries and supply chains, especially in healthcare. Within a highly regulated industry like healthcare, wearables and remote devices and apps present concerns around privacy, security, overall doctor/patient protection and more, as well as significant implications for public policy. What are the implications for clinical care? How does this differ across borders? IBM would like the Capstone team to research the current state of cognitive IoT in healthcare and make recommendations on how IBM can further promote its cognitive IoT solutions for healthcare in these various regions.

Improving Supply Chain Performance with New Digital Technologies

Client: Inter-American Development Bank

At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, public and private sector representatives agreed that one of the main challenges for developing economies on the horizon will be the rapidly changing nature of industrial production based on disruptive technology of digital technology. The public sector should play a critical role in creating the institutional framework to enhance the opportunities and minimize the risks derived from these unprecedented times. The specific Capstone project will focus on the country of Peru and the application of digital technology to the coffee supply chain. Peru is a commodity focused economy and would benefit from the study of the coffee supply chain to research the ways in which new technology can be used to advance the supply chain, what are the risks, what are the opportunities, what will be needed to adapt.  The goal is to provide recommendations to IDB on how to improve the performance of the coffee supply chain with the adoption of new digital technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, blockchain and 3D printing).

Analyzing Risk for Financial Institutions—Recommendations for ways to Improve/Adapt Current Model to Better Address Emerging Threats

Client: Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley would like a team of students to consider Morgan Stanley’s risk assessment model to provide new insights for the way in which the financial service industry assesses risk with new, emerging challenges.  The team will evaluate policies and practices focused on Anti-Money Laundering (AML), legal and compliance responsibility for governance, oversight and execution enterprise-wide of the Firm’s AML, Sanctions, Anti-Boycott, Anti-Corruption and Government and Political Activities programs. 

Cybersecurity as an Engine for Growth

Client: New America Foundation, Cybersecurity Initiative

New America’s new Cybersecurity Initiative is designed to bring fresh ideas and perspective to the cybersecurity policy debate. For the past five years, over 200 million new individuals became Internet-users. Over 80% of these new users come from the developing world, and the developing world supplies two-thirds of total Internet users. Increasingly, the key to a more stable global cyber ecosystem will for governments to build capacity in geographical areas where it is lacking. As a greater portion of the world’s population and economy migrates online, cities, states, and countries alike have begun to develop strategies to secure their people and economies online. Some parts of the world have capitalized on this massive movement online to market themselves as cyber secure and safe places to do business, successfully growing their local workforce and soliciting foreign investment.  This strategy has been leveraged at the national level by the likes of the United Kingdom and Israel, and is in the process of being implemented in several lesser developed countries as well as by some states within United States. This begs the question, which will be the focus of this Capstone workshop, what sorts of models for implementing this “cybersecurity as an engine for growth” strategy exist in the world, and can the U.S. states and developing countries learn lessons from the one another as well as countries that have already seen success in this space?

Measuring Systemic Risk through Open Source Tools to Determine Collateralized Exposure Calculations

Client: Quaternion Risk Management

Quaternion Risk Management Ltd is a specialist capital markets software and consulting practice with deep sector specialization in quantitative risk management services, the provision of expertise and the delivery of complex projects in the trading, risk, and finance functions. Quaternion Risk Management would like the Capstone team to run concrete examples of collateralized exposure calculations in ORE (an open source software developed by QRM). ORE is unique as it places the power to measure and address systemic risk in the hands of all users—not only regulators—to prevent the kinds of practices of loose oversight that lead to the crisis of 2008. The objective is to investigate the effect of new financial regulation (Initial Margin) on systemic risk in the financial system.

Analyzing the Re-balance of Global Crude Oil Markets

Client: Thomson Reuters, Wood Mackenzie     

Thomson Reuters placed a strategy five years ago to build out the physical supply chain to monitor and assess the impact of supply imbalance on the price of crude oil and refined products. A team of 50 analysts track the movement of oil via vessels, pipeline, storage and refineries. In addition, Thomson Reuters have begun a process of building tools with around that data to model the interactions and connections along the oil market supply chain.  Having recently signed a Strategic Partnership with Wood Mackenzie, Thomson Reuters is now in a position to analyze the factors that impact crude oil supply and to create useful “real-time” metrics on supply that will be available to a broad audience in the financial community.

Thomson Reuters has tasked the Spring 2017 Capstone team to develop a crude oil production indices based off the Wood Mackenzie Global Oil Supply Forecast Model. A key component of this task will be to assess the optimal way to aggregate the current dataset and convert it into a set of useful and relevant indicators that can be made available to broad audience in the financial community.

Digital Financial Services and Fintech in Africa: Using Partial Credit Guarantees to Promote Financial Inclusion

Client: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)   

Across Africa, mobile technology is increasingly used for insurance payments, remittances, credit products, and savings services. In East Africa alone an estimated 16 million new mobile money accounts were opened in 2016. In West Africa, the number of active mobile money accounts rose 56% in 2014. The rise of technology and mobile money in Africa is a tremendous opportunity for fintech (financial technology) companies to not just transform, but in some cases build the financial markets that can promote financial inclusion and improve livelihoods for low-income populations as well as promote development objectives such as health, energy, and agriculture. 

This Capstone Workshop will support USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) Africa Team’s efforts to expand their portfolio in support of financial inclusion, as well as look at new approaches or partners that could benefit from the DCA partial guarantee tool.   The team will provide a landscape analysis of the digital financial services space in Africa, with a particular focus on fintech companies and mapping out opportunities to use the partial credit guarantee and then recommend approaches and partners for the DCA office to promote digital finance and fintech in Africa. This would also include recommendations on how DFS/Fintech companies can connect with existing DCA partner financial institutions and borrowers.

Technological Change and China’s Public Security System

Client: United States Defense Intelligence Agency

The Capstone team will assess the future of China's authoritarian rule, specifically looking at the effect of technological change on China’s public security system. This project embraces a wide, non-traditional approach to security to investigate how China’s public security system (party, police, judicial, intelligence, and paramilitary organizations) is adapting to rapid technological change. The team will identify and interpret the system’s response to new technologies, visions for adaptation, potential future paths of development (scenarios), and implications for theories of authoritarian rule, political stability, collective action, and institutional change.

Digital Early Warning— Identifying the Very Early Key Indicators of Radicalization by Known Extremists on Social Media

Client: United States Department of State, Global Engagement Center

The Global Engagement Center plays a key role in the US strategy to counter ISIL’s messaging. Using modern cutting-edge technology, the Center is focused on bringing together and enabling a global network to confront the hateful messages ISIL puts out daily that recruit and inspire people to commit violence. This Capstone project will analyze data to identify the very early key indicators of radicalization demonstrated in communications by known extremists on social media. The answers to this question will help develop messaging opportunities for intervention against early radicalization online and will also help to refine the use of social media monitoring to prioritize audiences for interaction and monitoring. Lastly, the research from this project may also be an opportunity to gain some insight into potential "next" hot spots; for example by providing insights into radicalization in selected countries.

Economic/Financial Analysis and Impact Assessment of World Bank Financed Information and Communication Technology (ICT) investments in Malawi

Client: World Bank Group          

Technological progress is a driving force behind economic growth, citizen engagement and job creation. At the same time, access to internet through mobile or fixed broadband remains prohibitively expensive in many countries where lack of ICT infrastructure and regulatory bottlenecks still hamper broadband development.

For this Capstone, the World Bank asked the team to conduct an Economic and Financial analysis of the US$80 million Digital Malawi project currently under preparation, which aims to reduce the cost and increase access to the internet for government, citizens and businesses nationwide and to improve the government’s ability to deliver e-services.  The E&F analysis would be a critical input to the program design documents to be approved by the World Bank’s Board of Directors and would contribute to the Parliamentary stakeholder engagements needed to support approval of the program/loan by Malawi’s Parliament.

The Capstone team will also quantifying the impact (quantitative and qualitative) of the recently completed US$20 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP) Malawi project at both the macro and micro level.  The research will contribute valuable insight on modernizing the legal framework for the sector and an innovative public-private partnership through which a new fiber-optic network was constructed to supply international bandwidth to the government and private sector, dramatically lowering the market price for wholesale international bandwidth in Malawi.