Senior Spends Summer Building Program that Will Help Analyze 22 of the World’s Technology Giants

Gaby Walton
Gaby Walton (C'20), Photo by Shelby Roller

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November 11, 2019 – Prior to this summer, Gaby Walton (C’20) was eager to apply the coding skills she had learned beyond the classroom. In August, she developed a program that assists in the evaluation of 22 of the largest technology companies in the world. 

While studying abroad in Berlin, Walton applied for an internship opportunity with the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) working with the Ranking Digital Rights Technology Group (RDR) to develop the skills she had learned through her dual mathematics and computer science majors. She was able to support her internship through the Davis Fellowship Program

About HIIG and Ranking Digital Rights

Gaby Walton in Berlin
Gaby Walton during study abroad in Berlin

HIIG is an organization that focuses on digitization, its implications for society, and protecting the rights of individual users. Each year, Ranking Digital Rights, a project that is housed in HIIG, creates an index that evaluates 22 of the world’s most powerful technology companies on various aspects such as privacy and governance of freedom of expression. These tech companies then improve their systems based off of the index and recommendations provided by RDR. 

In order to create this index, RDR needs to compile large amounts of data that can be analyzed. This is where Walton was able to provide her expertise.

Streamlining the Process

To even begin their data collection for the index, RDR’s system requires several spreadsheets that will hold multiple data sets. Walton helped to shorten from several weeks to a few short minutes by building a program that generates these spreadsheets. 

“During my internship I worked on code that when given parameters generates all the spreadsheets needed for the researchers to input their data for a single company,” says Walton. “This code can be run as often as needed to generate the spreadsheets for all each company RDR analyzes. It will be used during the spreadsheet creation and data collection phases of the 2020 index.”

For a company that works year-round to create the index, this time-saving feature will allow RDR to allot even more resources to data analytics. 

“I really enjoyed being able to use my skills in a setting where my product was useful to someone besides myself,” Walton says. “When you are in the classroom, anything you create is just so that a professor can give you a grade, but nothing happens with it. With this, I was able to contribute to something greater that has a good purpose for the world.”

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)