Skip navigation

Technology and Innovation

Recent dramatic advances in technology are breaking new ground across a broadening range of disciplines, reconfiguring systems of power and reshaping resource distribution across the domestic and international arena.

These changing dynamics and transformations are challenging existing regulatory systems and upending longstanding international security arrangements. And in the case of technological frontiers like artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, machine learning and cyber, these transformative systems are provoking deep questions and reflections on human values and agency. At the same time, humanity faces global challenges, from global poverty and climate change to public health and international security, that can only be solved through continued technological innovation, some of which will undoubtedly have to be funded, conducted, and steered by public agencies.

From national security and diplomacy to international finance and trade, how is technological innovation challenging the existing global order? How can governments and the private sector spur the development and deployment of new technologies that can advance the national interest? What regulatory arrangements are needed to turn technologies from threats to competitive advantages? Building on SAIS’ existing strength of combining instruction by academics with courses taught by practitioners with deep expertise in the field, the Technology and Innovation focus area provides students with the knowledge and analytical skills to solve the rapidly evolving technology challenges of today and anticipate those of tomorrow.


Examine the issues of technology and innovation that will shape international relations in the 21st century and beyond.

Cyber Operations

Long ago, scholars of war and conflict divided their subject into three segments: the strategic, the operational, and the technical. The most widely-discussed of these, strategy, focuses on big questions like deterrence.

Technical analysis is also common in specialized courses and, in a topic like cybersecurity, requires a fair amount of computer science knowledge. But operational analysis is too rare. This course takes up this operational lens and uses it to understand how nations project power in cyberspace. Rather than beginning with strategic concepts, such as analogies to other forms of warfare, we will focus first on what actually has happened. We will establish a model for offensive and defensive cyber operations, introducing key terms and concepts that can be flexibly deployed to understand a wide range of incidents. Then we will use this model in analyzing a series of case studies. In each case, we will examine how different groups of government hackers performed their missions and what outcome resulted. With this solid foundation established, we will then use our operational understanding to re-examine strategic ideas like deterrence in a new light.

Cryptocurrencies and FinTech

This course is for students wishing to explore the world of cryptocurrencies and related Fintech innovations.

The goal of the course is to analyze their characteristics, the enabling technological innovations, their economics and role in modern Finance, and potential applications. The course begins with a brief insight on the theory and history of money and Financial innovation. After providing some technical background on how cryptography works, the course studies the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and then moves to other cryptocurrencies or crypto platforms such as Ethereum or Cardano. It will also analyze stablecoins and Central Bank digital currencies. Students will gain an understanding of the economic, technical and public policy issues associated with blockchain technology, distributed ledgers and smart contracts.

Digital Development: Innovative Use of Technology in Emerging Markets

The aim of this course is to provide students with a practical, relevant framework to apply participatory and principled approaches to deploying information and communications technologies (ICTs) and digital tools to meet international development goals and improve outcomes in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

The course will equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to understand and contribute to this emerging sub-field of international development practice. Each session will include an introduction to relevant foundational knowledge that will provide an entry point whereby technologies such as mobile phones, sensors, drones and tablets can be designed and deployed to address problems in health, education, agriculture, governance and environmental sustainability. Cross-cutting themes such as information security, policy, gender, and inclusion will also be explored. Students will have an understanding of the constraints and benefits of integrating technology into development programs.

Influence Operations in the Digital Age

This course will explore how global actors have weaponized false or misleading information and personas to shape public perceptions, achieve strategic geopolitical goals, make money, and pollute the information environment.

Students will study the new tools being used by state and non-state actors and examine the reach/effectiveness of disinformation campaigns in shaping public dialogue. In particular, this course will explore how the practice of influence operations has changed in the information age, how both state and non-state actors weaponize technology, social networks, and other tools for dissemination, and what makes human beings and societies vulnerable to influence operations. In addition to covering state- sponsored influence operations, this course will also dive into financially motivated operations, the role of traditional media and state media, and the inadvertent spread of viral false information, otherwise known as misinformation. Students will study how to detect influence campaigns using open-source investigative techniques and discuss the difficulties of attribution particular to the influence operations space. Finally, this course will explore regulatory, diplomatic, technological, and societal mitigations and interventions aimed at protecting the information environment, assessing their effectiveness.


Study with world-class experts who are renowned for their scholarship, influence, and networks.

Lisel Hintz

Assistant Professor of European and Eurasian Studies

Olga Belogolova

Lecturer, Director, Emerging Technologies Initiative

Erwin Villiger

Adjunct Lecturer

In the News

Don’t Hype the Disinformation Threat

Foreign Affairs, May, 5, 2024


In the Small Wars Journal, Professor Albert J. Marckwardt writes about the authorization for the use of force against Mexican cartels was introduced in Congress. 04/29/24

Q&A with SAIS’ Jonas Nahm, Co-Author of 2024 U.S. Presidential Economic Report

The breadth and depth of the Economic Report of the President…reflects the deep bench of expertise at the Council of Economic Advisers, and the federal government more broadly.

A Closer Look at the Gaza Casualty Data

Good Authority (blog), December 14, 2023. With Marc Lynch.

The Ghosts of Lebanon

Foreign Affairs, November 14, 2023.

The Political Dynamics of Disasters

Arts & Sciences Magazine, November, 2023.

No Comment

Eliot A. Cohen wrote in The Atlantic, 06/01

It’s Not Enough for Ukraine to Win. Russia Has to Lose

Eliot A. Cohen wrote in The Atlantic, 05/19

The Shortest Path to Peace

Eliot A. Cohen wrote in The Atlantic, 02/28