The Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) received a $5 million dollar donation from the Balsillie Family Fund to establish the Technology Governance Initiative (TGI) at the School.

As part of the Technology Governance Initiative, the Balsillie Scholars Program will invite leading international technology governance scholars and practitioners to the School for periods ranging from three months to one year, fostering mentorship, research, and collaboration.

“We are excited to be part of the Balsillie School’s Technology Governance Initiative, which promises to extend the school’s research leadership across a wide range of domains helping shape better futures for humanity,” said Vivek Goel, President, and Vice-Chancellor at Waterloo.

This initiative aligns with our Global Futures which aim to inspire collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to the world’s biggest problems — Vivek Goel

For example, while the frictionless exchange and analysis of health data across jurisdictions, practitioners and laboratories has the potential to deliver optimal health outcomes, that data is deeply personal. “If we’re going to trust AI to process big data sets, the kinds of governance thinking developed as part of the Technology Governance Initiative will be vital in designing systems that maintain public trust,” Goel said.

Students complete one of three possible degrees none of them conferred by the Balsillie School. The graduate programs are as follows MA in Global Governance (UWaterloo), PhD in Global Governance (UWaterloo), Masters in International Public Policy (Laurier) or PhD in Global Governance (Laurier). The Waterloo graduate programs are led and governed entirely by faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.

In a press release on the funding announcement philanthropist and BSIA founder, Jim Balsillie, discussed why this donation makes sense at this time, and governance, cannot be ignored in the rush to create new technology.

A modern building glowing on at night
“Rapid technology innovations continue to impact all areas of international affairs. Good governance and effective policy supporting these innovations are critical for national resilience, and the strength of the international system. I believe that the research expertise in Waterloo Region, led by the Balsillie School of International Affairs, will bring solutions to these challenges,” he said.

Jeff Casello, Board Chair at the BSIA agrees. “With our emerging focus on addressing the world's most pressing challenges though Global Futures, this generous donation is an endorsement of the continued success we see when partners collaborate across organization boundaries”.

For Casello who also serves as Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at UWaterloo, “it allows the Balsillie School to not only leverage Waterloo’s strengths in technology but also facilitates the kind of transformative outcomes that can only be achieved when leading researchers approach problems through the diverse disciplinary lenses.”

That work will soon be on full display as TGI plans to share insights into technology governance and policy-related feedback from Canada's foremost technology leaders through its Balsillie Case Studies. They will address contemporary technology-related challenges that influence public policy and global governance.