The boys behind the Bot
"Technology is a word that invents new words” reads the website of Shaamil Karim. Adyar Times caught up with the brothers who are residents of Sastri Nagar, Adyar. While Shaaban is a 3rd Year B.E. Manufacturing student of BITS Pilani at Hyderabad, Shaamil is a 12th standard student of Sishya School, Adyar.
Notwithstanding the many forwards and unverified information circulating among the public, the brothers ideated on creating a Chatbot, also called Bot, for the Corporation from where verified information on the status of the virus and various other information from the corporation can be accessed at the click of a button. “WhatsApp is a hotspot. A lot of fake news was being circulated. So when I was trying to get some verified information on Corona, I was not able to get it. That’s when we thought of the need for information at a common platform,” says Shaamil.
With this idea, they sent an email to the Corporation’s social media team and the Joint Commissioner - Health who immediately invited them to start the project. “The Joint Commissioner and the Commissioner were very impressed with my idea and were very enthusiastic about it,” says Shaamil.
The Bot provides instant information from the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from Chennai Corporation and has helped the team in saving a considerable amount of time taken in responding to each and every visitor on its different platforms. It has been implemented with the Facebook, Twitter and Telegram accounts of the Corporation. The team however found the implementation of the Bot on WhatsApp not feasible due to various issues. “Visitors can now get credible and verified information from the Corporation,” says Shaamil.
When asked about their experience with working with the Corporation, Shaamil says, “I expected an intimidating environment, but they were very nice and supportive. I did not expect them to listen to a 16 year old. But they were very open minded, very well versed in technology and open to changes and implementation of new technology. I was made very comfortable and they listened to me and I had a wonderful experience working in the Control Room.
Chennai Corporation has one of the advanced technologies in India. Infact, it is the only city having a Bot of its own. The government of India has it and so does many other state governments, but this is the first Bot for a city.”
The Bot took a month to be developed. It was implemented on Facebook and Telegram on Apr.24. While the development for Twitter is also complete, Twitter is yet to approve the implementation. “The Commissioner was impressed that I was doing this while still in school. He was very happy with the project,” exclaims Shaamil. He is also looking forward to helping other government departments in any way possible.
Shaamil credits his school environment for his achievements, especially his computer science teacher, Celine Biju, who kindled his interest in computers and was a constant source of encouragement. Being in 12th standard is no deterrent for Shaamil, and believes that following one's passion is more important.
This is not the first project for Shaamil. He was among the finalists in Google Science Fair. His project was on the use of photo-resistors to brighten street lights as a vehicle approached and dimmer after the vehicle passed, thus saving energy. He is also a mentor for students at CoderDojo - a global movement of free volunteer-led, community-based computer programming clubs for young people, where he himself was a student once.
He along with his friends have also founded the Toy Joy Foundation where families can donate toys that their children have outgrown, to the less fortunate. They have collaborated with Dunzo for logistics to pick up the toys from the homes of families. Check out the foundation at http://toyjoyfoundation.wixsite.com/website.
As our chat concludes, Shaamil says, “Possibilities are limitless with technology!”. Shaamil can be reached through his website: http://shaamilkarim.com/