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Summer Internship 2011

September 28, 2011 1 comment

This summer I spent eleven weeks interning in the Washington, D.C. office of US Representative Mike Kelly. The internship was a great chance to explore my longstanding interest in government, though I was also able to work with policy issues in information technology, web science, and computer science, including federal IT reform, open government data release, and cybersecurity.

While most of my work was traditional intern tasks, sorting mail, writing letters, answering phones, and running errands, I did get to spend a substantial working with issues more pertinent to my studies. As Representative Kelly serves as Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform, he was involved with legislative work addressing technology issues. At one subcommittee hearing on federal IT reform and government transparency I was able to see former US CIO Vivek Kundra testify on his work, alongside CIOs from Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, and Department of Veterans Affairs. While waiting for a quorum of two congressmen so that the hearing could start I was able to approach the witness panel and speak to Kundra for several minutes, discussing my interest in his Data.gov project and my involvement with the Tetherless World Constellation, which he was well aware of. At the hearing Kundra testified about the benefits of open government data and noted the value of data “mashups”, many of which have come out of the TWC. In preparation for the hearing I discussed IT issues with Representative Kelly, including federal data center usage, free and open source software, cybersecurity, and Semantic Web for open government data. I explained Semantic Web as being a way of linking data and information in such a way as to give it computer-understandable meaning.

Cybersecurity was an important issue this summer, and I was able to attend hearings addressing the matter from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. I also represented the office at two think-tank hosted briefing sessions on the matter for government and industry officials, where I was able to hear from officials including the former CIO of the US Air Force, the Legal Counsel for the newly formed Cyber Command, and Senator Harry Reid’s senior advisor for defense issues.

Through regular lectures for interns hosted by the Committee on House Administration I was able to hear from and interact with a number of important government figures and public intellectuals including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who I asked about the Executive Branch’s decision to classify cyber attacks the same as they would any other military attack; New York Times editorialist David Brook, who I asked about the role of digital distribution in his work; and Ralph Nader, who I spoke to one-on-one with about “humanistic” uses of information technology and computer science.

Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot at my internship, and I did far more than I ever expected to. The experience was invaluable to me as someone with interests in government and technology.

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