2006 PFIG Recipient Dhruv Kapadia
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Computer Engineering Major
2007 Graduation Year
Internship: Center for Democracy and Technology
Notes on the first week
My first week here at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has been a good one. The CDT is a relatively small organization that was founded to advocate for civil liberties online. New technology, the Internet in particular, offers a great deal of promise to society, but this promise can be threatened by short-sighted laws, regulations or business practices. Since the early 90's, the CDT for the public interest to find common ground on these often contentious issues.
The first week here has been spent mostly learning about the organization and the various issues that we work on. The staff are all smart, enthusiastic people that try to give the interns projects that are worthwhile and relevant to our interests. I'm really enjoying my first project, which has focused on adware, software that plagues many computer users with popup ads and security vulnerabilities. In addition to the various small projects we work on, the staff requires each intern to produce at least one lengthy research paper by the end of the summer. Although I don't know what topic I will write on, I look forward to producing something substantial on a single topic. If nothing else, this week has convinced me that this summer will be very busy, but engaging as well.
While work assignments change on a daily basis, I've had the opportunity to contribute to some longer term projects as well. At the start of the summer, the staff put me to work collecting data for an upcoming report. I fully expected the staff to be thorough producing the report, but I definitely underestimated the amount of effort it would take to get from start to finish. After collecting the data, it had to be checked for accuracy and compiled into meaningful form. The staff produced a draft quickly after this step, but each new version had to be vetted internally and by a number of external organizations. Comments were then incorporated into the report and the cycle began anew. This lengthy process has made me appreciate the hard work goes into producing these reports. I look forward to finally releasing it, and I hope it will have an impact.
Working in DC has allowed me to learn a little about how to influence policy outside of papers, websites, and letters to congress. The staff encouraged all of the interns to attend some of the hearings and conferences that occur often in Washington. Though sometimes lengthy, these often serve to shape the content of public debate. When meeting with staff members in the government, we interns saw the important role that public interest groups perform in educating policymakers. Additionally, working on various assignments clearly demonstrated the amount of power that government agencies wield through the regulatory process. I sincerely doubt that I would have been able to learn this sort of practical information anywhere outside the city.
It's hard to believe that the summer is halfway completed, but I can only hope that the second half here will be as interesting as the first.