DPI-691M: Programming and Data for Policymakers

Semester: January

Credit: 2.0

Syllabus: Click here for syllabus

Faculty: Dhrumil Mehta


Day Time Location
Term Start Date 1/9
Meet Day M/T/W/Th/F 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM 1 Brattle Sq 402 (HKS)


Data and code are no longer just for programmers. Policymakers in the 21st century, from members of Congress to analysts and executives need to be equipped with the necessary skills to navigate nuanced issues at the intersection of technology and governance. Those who have first-hand experience with programming, data, software development and management methods, open source collaboration, and technology innovation are better prepared to competently navigate these issues.

In the course of five six-hour classes, this module will provide an intensive hands-on curriculum that involves programming exercises in the context of government and politics to build essential core technology and data skills. The hands on exercises will familiarize students with technologies that are a part of the modern programmers toolkit including the command-line, github, the structure of a web application, the linux filesystem, data standards (json, XML, etc), cloud technologies, and databases.

This is not a data science course, nor is it a standard programming bootcamp. This course is designed to give students a deeper appreciation for the nuances of software and data through practical training. Though the course is rooted practical applications, students will be prompted through assigned readings and discussion to think broadly about the implications of implementing the technologies introduced and their ramifications in the context of policy. Exercises will build on one another so that students will come away with a small software project of their own. The course is also designed to prepare students who wish to pursue further learning to overcome the initial barrier to learning programming and more efficiently direct future efforts.

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