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Brian Forde

Director of Digital Currency, MIT Media Lab

Brian Forde has spent more than a decade at the nexus of technology, entrepreneurship, and public policy. He is currently the Director of Digital Currency at the MIT Media Lab where he leads efforts to mainstream digital currencies like Bitcoin through research, and incubation of high-impact applications of the emerging technology. Most recently he was the Senior Advisor for Mobile and Data Innovation at the White House where he spearheaded efforts to leverage emerging technologies to address the President’s most critical national priorities. Prior to his work at the White House, Brian founded one of the largest phone companies in Nicaragua after serving as a business and technology volunteer in the Peace Corps. In recognition of his work, Brian was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Digital currencies like Bitcoin are poised to make a dramatic impact on most people’s lives over the next decade. To help realize the projected impact of this technology, Brian recently launched the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. He is responsible for bringing together global experts in areas ranging from cryptography, economics, privacy, and distributed systems to take on this important new area of research that will support the commercial and social viability of this technology. Specifically, the initiative is conducting research and engaging students on digital currency topics that address questions regarding security, stability, scalability, privacy, and economics. It is also convening governments, nonprofits, and the private sector to research and test concepts that have high social impact.

In his role at the White House, Brian was responsible for determining how the Obama Administration would leverage open data and technology to address national priorities. These priorities included crowdsourcing, the sharing economy, and innovation prizes and challenges to address issues including Hurricane Sandy, climate change, and the revitalization of Detroit. A passionate advocate for diversity in tech, Brian formed the White House Tech Inclusion and TechHire Initiatives, bringing together leaders from the technology community, large corporations, and advocacy groups to support the hiring and training of more women and minorities in tech.

Prior to his government service, Brian brought tech and innovation to the rural mountain communities of Nicaragua. From 2005 to 2010, he was the co-founder and CEO of Llamadas, S.A., a low-cost internet phone service provider serving more than a quarter of a million Nicaraguans. A pioneer in leveraging tech in the developing world, Llamadas, S.A. was recognized by the US Ambassador to Nicaragua as one of the most innovative companies in the fight against poverty.

Prior to founding Llamadas, S.A., Brian served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mountains of Nicaragua where he taught small business classes to local high school students.