Behind the Tech: Meet Our New CDO

Ben Mann

Imagine stepping into a world utterly different from your own—new sounds, sights, and a language you don't understand.

It's a reality that many immigrants to the US experience when they first arrive, but also my family's experience as Americans in Egypt during the 1980s. Born abroad to both a pastor and mathematics professor father at the American University in Cairo, my early cross-cultural experience of being a stranger in a new country has profoundly shaped my worldview. I've learned that everyone has value and deserves the chance to live their best life, a core belief that fuels our data-driven immigration solution at Mobile Pathways.

Growing up, my family was always on the move. Living across the United States and worldwide instilled in me the values of empathy, innovation, and the desire to help— no matter where we were or what our circumstances. This upbringing pushed me to become an engineer and allowed me to work alongside hundreds of immigrants and friends from other countries, whether working in construction, international development, or with local nonprofits. Sharing lunch on truck tailgates with migrants on a building site or drinking coffee with resettled refugees in DC, I was regularly moved by immigrant stories of resilience and determination from my coworkers who faced awe-inspiring journeys for the life they had.

Each individual I met had a unique story but shared a common goal: to build a better life.

Cairo, Egypt. 1986

Throughout my career, I've always been intrigued and inspired by the intersection of people and technology. My first assignment overseas as a USAID contractor was conducting a geospatial analysis of rural communities to determine the best place for a new clean water system. It was captivating to meet with local leaders and families and hear their stories of need and excitement over life-changing services. I was hooked and committed to using my analytical skills to improve the lives of those who needed the most help. From building BI dashboards to monitor and evaluate the success of development projects around the world to supporting nonprofit partners in using AI and ML to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I've gained first-hand experience in adapting and applying emerging technology and unlocking the power of advanced analytics to solve big, sticky problems.

Conducting data collection with local government over tea in Visakhapatnam, India. 2015

As I worked alongside new friends and colleagues in the US and abroad, I was challenged by the adversity that many of them faced as immigrants and refugees but also encouraged that there were real innovative solutions for refugees looking for a fresh start. It is what has led me to where I am today and my new role as the Chief Data Officer of Mobile Pathways. In this role, I am committed to using data-driven technology to assist asylum seekers in navigating the complexities of the immigration court—a system full of pitfalls, biases, and inequalities.

At Mobile Pathways, we harness the power of data to light the way for those in the shadows, enabling individual empowerment and agency through mobile technology for immigrants.

We're not just developing technology; we're building hope. One of the first products I've had the opportunity to build with my new team, the Asylum Navigator, offers advanced analytics on asylum grant rates and provides clear insights into the historical outcomes of cases across cities and judges.

The feedback from our partners and the people we serve has been incredibly affirming. Asylum Navigator has become a beacon for many, guiding them through the daunting legal landscape. With over 50,000 views, it has surpassed our goals of reach and impact— with the potential to help even more immigrants every day. Stories of families reunited and lives transformed fuel our mission and remind us of the power of data for good.

MP Team, Washington DC 2024

My vision is a future where data informs and transforms the immigration landscape, making the process more transparent, fair, and humane.

The road ahead is filled with challenges but also with unprecedented opportunities. We are exploring the frontiers of AI and automation to streamline the asylum-seeking process. We are laying down the foundation for a future of growth and opportunity. The Mobile Pathways team has multiple new products, services, and insights in development that we believe will level the playing field in the unfair lottery of immigration court. Our goal is not just to navigate the current system but to reimagine it entirely, making it more accessible to those who need it most.

From the streets of Cairo to the forefront of data-driven technology for social impact, my journey has been guided by a belief in the power of empathy, innovation, and action. At Mobile Pathways, we are just getting started. Together, we can create a world where technology bridges divides and data drives not just decisions but change. Join us in this mission to light the way for those seeking safety and a new beginning.