BOSTON — Today, Vilas S. Dhar was announced as the inaugural president of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation to lead a philanthropic vision that bridges the frontiers of artificial intelligence and data science with social good.
“I am honored to steward the Foundation’s work to create a better future for all of humanity,” said Dhar. “The world is already in the midst of a digital revolution driven by machine learning, data science and AI. Now is the moment for a broad coalition of voices to come together to purposefully build resilient institutions that can harness the transformative potential of technology for our common good.”
The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is the legacy of Patrick J. McGovern (1937-2014), founder and CEO of IDG, a global publishing empire that pioneered publications like Computerworld, Macworld and PCWorld. With a $1.2 billion endowment, the Foundation will commit $60-$65 million annually to technology for good and is one of the first foundations exclusively committed to AI, data science and society. Since 2015, it has awarded more than $280 million in grants in neuroscience and information technology to benefit humanity, including $25 million last fiscal year to address the COVID-19 pandemic and support innovative applications of digital technologies.
Under Dhar’s leadership, the Foundation will build on its history of catalytic grantmaking by advancing the potential for AI and data science to radically transform our world for the better. To make this vision a reality, the Foundation will cultivate world-class AI and data science expertise within the organization and empower its partners with these tools to drive greater social good. It also looks to bring together academics, practitioners, civil society, social change advocates and government to create the social institutions, ethical frameworks and new approaches needed for the coming digital era.
“Patrick J. McGovern was years ahead of his time in recognizing that technology can and should be used for the betterment of humanity,’ said his son and Foundation Trustee Patrick McGovern III. “We are thrilled to welcome Vilas as the new President of the Foundation because, in addition to his impressive executive experience, he shares my father’s passion and optimism about the transformative potential of technology as a force for good.”
Dhar brings a broad and rich professional background to the role as technologist, entrepreneur and human rights advocate. Throughout a diverse career that has taken him to more than 150 countries, Dhar has worked to create more equitable and inclusive social institutions and ensure the benefits of the digital era are shared by all. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dhar founded and led two successful social impact organizations, served as the Gleitsman
Fellow on Social Change at Harvard University, and continued his fascination with technology that began with his studies at the intersection of computer science and bioengineering at the University of Illinois.
“Patrick J. McGovern was a visionary entrepreneur. From his time as an undergrad at MIT, he set out to shape humanity’s engagement with technology. It’s fitting that the Foundation is taking on this next great opportunity for human advancement,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “The Foundation’s renewed vision for AI and data science, combined with Vilas’s exceptional leadership, represent an exciting opportunity to build a 21st century approach to philanthropy.”