Nathan Eagle is an American technology executive and one of the world's leading mobile phone developers. He currently is co-founder and CEO of Jana (formerly txteagle),[1] a Boston-based company that engages more than two billion consumers in emerging markets.[2][3] He is also an award-winning technology innovator and an adjunct assistant professor at Harvard University, and holds faculty positions at MIT and Northeastern University.

Business career

Eagle co-founded Jana with Ben Olding in 2009.[4] The idea for Jana began while Eagle was on MIT's research faculty in rural Kenya in 2007. Fascinated by the ubiquity of mobile phones in developing countries, Eagle began designing a platform that provided emerging-market consumers with the ability to directly engage with global organizations and earn supplemental income.[5] He developed a way to compensate mobile phone subscribers with airtime in exchange for sharing their opinions and information about their local markets useful to global organizations such as the United Nations as well as private-sector global brands.[6] In an April 2011 interview with The Guardian, Eagle said, “My ultimate goal at txteagle [now called Jana] is to re-route 30 percent of the money spent on mass advertising in the developing world to the individual consumers themselves -- meanwhile helping brands build loyalty, and helping consumers get the goods and services they want.”[7] In September 2011, he said in a keynote address that such a reallocation could cause a seismic shift: “You could give one billion people a five-percent raise.”[8]

As of 2011, Jana has been earning revenue in 49 countries with 220 mobile phone operator partners, enabling the company to create a database of 2.1 billion consumers.[9] According to The Guardian, Eagle aims for Jana to provide global brands "direct access to their next billion consumers."[10]

Reality Mining

When Eagle was pursuing his PhD at MIT, he led one of the largest mobile phone projects conducted in academia, the "Reality Mining" study.[11] Recognizing the untapped power of the smartphones in 2004, Eagle provided 100 volunteers from the MIT community with smartphones that logged their activity over the 2004-05 academic year. This dataset consisted of more than 350,000 hours, or about 40 years, of continuous data on human behavior.[12] Eagle's experiment captured communication, proximity, location and activity information from the subjects and built models to predict both how single users and organizations would behave. According to Wired Magazine, “Eagle's algorithms were able to predict what people -- especially professors and Media Lab employees -- would do next and be right up to 85 percent of the time.”[13] The experiment recorded how the subjects responded to events as disparate as an organization-wide deadline and the Red Sox's stunning World Series win in 2004.[14] Unlike other behavior-study methods such as interviews or virtual-world observations, Eagle's research illustrated how mobile phones can be used to collect accurate, large-scale data about real social interactions.[15] The Reality Mining data has been downloaded by thousands of researchers [16] and has been analyzed in hundreds of academic publications.[17] The project was named one of the "10 Technologies Most Likely To Change The Way We Live" by the MIT Technology Review.[18]


As a research scientist at MIT and Fulbright Scholar in 2006, Eagle launched MIT's Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobile (EPROM) initiative, developing a mobile phone programming curriculum that has been adopted by twelve computer science departments across Sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands of African computer science students have gone through Eagle's curriculum, leading to hundreds of mobile applications designed for consumers in more than 100 countries.[19]

Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI-D)

As a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute in 2010,[20] Eagle and Eric Horvitz launched an initiative called Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI-D), bringing together researchers interested in applying AI research to development challenges.[21] This initiative led to a diverse set of projects ranging from computational models of food shortages to studies on the dynamics of slums.

Engineering Social Systems

As an adjunct assistant professor at Harvard University in 2011, Eagle formed the Engineering Social Systems group, composed of researchers from fields ranging from epidemiology and public health to statistical physics and urban planning, who are dedicated to the analysis of "big data for social good."[22]

Awards and recognition

Eagle's reality mining project was named one of the "10 Technologies Most Likely To Change The Way We Live" in 2005.[23]In 2008, Nokia named Eagle one of the world's top mobile phone developers.[24] In 2009, Eagle was inducted into the TR35, a group of top technology innovators worldwide under the age of 35.[25] His academic work has appeared in Science, Nature and PNAS, and his perspectives featured in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and on CNN.[26] The Economist profiled his idea in 2010.[27]

Eagle is also a regular speaker at global innovation forums including TED.[28] GigaOM,[29] and the Mobile Research Conference.[30]

Education and personal

Eagle graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, a master’s degree in Management Science and Engineering, and a master’s in Electrical Engineering. He earned his PhD at the MIT Media Laboratory in 2005.[31] He is married to Caroline Buckee, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.[32][33] He has studied technical mountaineering and is certified as a Wilderness EMT.


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