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Jael Makagon (MPP Candidate ’18)

Jael Makagon

Jael returned to school after a career in international development to focus on technology policy. In law school he was drawn to international and environmental issues, but he was also fascinated by Constitutional law, particularly in regard to free speech and privacy. After law school he clerked at the Hawai`i Supreme Court and then entered private practice for two years at one of Hawai`i’s largest commercial litigation firms. In 2012, he moved to Cape Town, South Africa to work for a small human rights NGO called Natural Justice that allowed him to combine his interest in the intersection of human rights and environmental law. He spent five years with Natural Justice supporting local communities in Africa and Latin America impacted by large infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects.

Throughout that time, he observed the growing pervasiveness of new forms of technology, such as social media and mobile phone payment systems, both in the communities he worked with, as well as back home in the US. He felt that in contrast to the highly visible social, environmental, and economic impacts of port projects and coal plants, these new methods of communication and the increasing datafication of societies had impacts that were much less obvious but were equally, if not more, profound. He decided that he wanted to apply the lessons he had learned as a lawyer with international experience to ensure that the producers of new technologies and powerful players in information economies recognize the inherent values they promote (or overlook), and the broad reaching impacts that these rapidly changing technologies could have. He selected the Goldman School because of its pipeline to all levels of government, its proximity to companies at the cutting edge of technology, and its links to other departments on the Berkeley campus that are leaders in technology issues.

Jael is a Graduate Student Researcher for Professor Deirdre Mulligan (Berkeley School of Information) and part of a research team that received funding in 2017 from the Center for Effective Global Action to conduct research related to digital credit and consumer protection in emerging markets. He received his BA in Environmental Studies and JD from the University of Hawai'i