Arnav Jagasia, a senior in the Management and Technology program, is fascinated by the intersection of public policy, business and technology. Arnav feels that many of the future challenges in public policy will require an interdisciplinary approach and understanding, especially in the technology space. “Experts will be required from a variety of backgrounds to understand and solve the coming challenges, in election security, the regulation of the internet and other technology-related issues that are complex and evolving rapidly,” he observes. And he intends to be one of them. This was the main reason Arnav was drawn to Penn, and to the M&T program in particular—a community which emphasizes an interdisciplinary education.
Arnav started examining the relationship between technology and public policy as a freshmen, when he joined the Public Policy Initiative Student Group and founded its Innovation and Technology Policy team, which researches and writes articles for the PPI student blog. He knew he was interested in public policy, but that he would not have the opportunity to study it in depth as an M&T student, so PPISG was a natural fit. Arnav felt it was “a great way to explore a variety of topics in technology policy, to meet people with similar interests, and to expand [his] understanding of the role of technology in policy.”
Arnav gained deeper experience working at the intersection of technology and policy through two summer internships at Palantir Technologies, a leading firm working with governments around the world. Arnav enjoyed his experience immensely, explaining that he was able to see both sides of the relationship between technology companies and government. Arnav learned about how technology informs policymaking within the government, seeing how technological changes could help government agencies perform their investigations; and see how technology companies react to policy changes, such as the right to be forgotten and other consumer rights issues, and the technical challenges that they impose.
Last year, Arnav was a software engineer in Palantir’s Washington, DC office, where he was “integrating data from government sources” to help financial services agencies for the US Federal Government “perform their investigations using their data in a more automated and efficient manner.” Arnav enjoyed building the skills he was learning in his engineering classes and seeing how they could be used in a practical manner to improve policymaking. In addition, he loved exploring DC, its free museums and learning from the variety of policy enthusiasts around him.
This past summer, Arnav worked in the company’s London office, to help European companies respond to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law enacted by the European Union last summer to protect consumers’ privacy and give them the right to be forgotten. He was based in London but was working with customers across Europe respond to the challenges they faced from the new, evolving and only broadly defined regulations within the GDPR. Arnav explains that while conceptually he agrees with the right to be forgotten, “it became apparent that it’s not immediately obvious how, specifically, to comply with the law.” “How do you know that you’ve done it correctly? It requires engineers to understand the vision of the law and to build something that philosophically adheres to that vision.” This was a complex challenge, and Arnav was on a team of engineers and policy experts working together to solve it. Arnav enjoyed getting exposure to how GDPR was effecting organizations’ operations, and then seeing how Palantir would react to their clients’ needs.
The thorny legal, political, and ethical issues that underlie technology policy also speak to Arnav’s interest in speech and debate, which he pursued in high school. Now, he is happily giving back to the community through Penn for Youth Debate, helping organize Penn’s high school debate tournament and lowering the cost to help make the tournament available to a wider range of schools. Arnav sees debate as not only a vehicle for getting students interested in policy but for helping improve their writing and public speaking skills. He also volunteers as a debate coach for local schools. Arnav feels that debate “helps you learn how to structure an argument better, to listen carefully to the arguments of others, and to be a more confident public speaker.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, given his interests in policy, debate, and the development of solutions to technology-related issues that cut across national boundaries, Arnav sees a future for himself in international technology policymaking. As he observes, Australia recently established an Ambassador for Cyber Affairs, and Denmark too has created the new government position of Technology Ambassador. Arnav aspires to fill a similar role for the U.S. government someday. “I’d like to have a hand in charting a policy path that navigates in a balanced way between security, privacy, and innovation that allows us to accelerate technological growth while ensuring accountability and protecting people’s personal data.”