A year ago, we started first ever Artificial Intelligence community in Nepal, we called it Developer Sessions. Earlier this year, we officially incorporated it into a not-for-profit initiative called Artificial Intelligence for Development (AID). AID mainly aims to conduct research and development in AI which can solve the existing problems of our society, an AI that will be built to empower our society and bring positive change.
Since its inception, AID has conducted numerous workshops, meetup events, professional training in AI all over Nepal. We have also released a prototype of our open collaboration project, Cash Recognition for Visually Impaired, which will enable visually impaired individuals in Nepal to do daily monetary tasks independently and confidently. The aim of these events and projects is to educate individuals who are new to AI and help them understand how they can get started with it and how they can use it to build solutions to their community. Soon after incorporating our community into AID, we partnered with CityAI, a global non-profit initiative and a community of AI practitioners across 40+ cities all over the world that shares challenges and lessons learned in applied AI. After which we are also known as Kathmandu AI globally.
While conducting these workshops and interactive sessions on AI, we learned that many people are highly motivated and passionate about learning these new concepts and wants to apply it to solve their community problems. They range from IT and Engineering students to professionals and academics with years of experience in a related field. We also realized that to attract this diverse participation and to truly empower our community we need something more than just projects and events organized solely by AID. We wanted to come up with something that will truly democratize the access to AI education among these individuals and empower them locally so that they can take a lead and work on problems that they think is most important to their community.
With that in mind, we launched Community Leaders Program (CLP). CLP is mostly targeted to students and new learners in AI, so that they can take a lead in their community and organize events, conduct AI research, build projects, write articles on related topics. With such initiative, they can inspire their community locally and encourage fellow community members to be active in this field and create something for the society using AI. AID will directly support these local initiatives by these community leaders with financial, technical, logistics or any other expertise or support required. Since we launched this program, we received numerous applications from students and developers from all over Nepal. We carefully examined why they want to be a part of this program and what’s their aspirations are. After carefully examining and shortlisting the candidates, we accepted 27 candidates from all over Nepal to be the first Community Leaders. They are mainly students with different technical and academic background but they all have one thing in common, they want to apply themselves and excel in this field of Artificial Intelligence and while doing so they want to empower their community and build something for their community which can have the positive impact in future.
Out of 27 Community Leaders, 2 of them already conducted multiple in-depth technical workshops on Python Programming and Machine Learning in their college. In this brief write-up, I am sharing their views and motivations behind these workshops and why they are a part of this program.
Merishna Singh Suwal and Pragyan Subedi are two undergraduate students who are Community Leaders; they are taking a lead to develop an AI community in their college which is Kathmandu Engineering College. What they are doing as a part of this program is very inspirational and I wanted share their side of story and motivation behind their contributions to the community they are a part of.
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Merishna : I am an avid learner and a data science enthusiast with expertise in Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, currently working as a Data Science Intern at Arch Analytics. I am also an undergraduate degree student in Computer Engineering at Kathmandu Engineering College, I love to explore data and have been applying my knowledge, researching and exploring new ways of influencing lives with AI.
Pragyan : I am currently, working as a Python Developer at Tootle and also enrolled as a Bachelors in Computer Engineering undergraduate at Kathmandu Engineering College, I consider myself as a self-motivated learner with a passion for exploring mathematical depths. The field of Artificial Intelligence piques my interest because of its unexplored vastness, simplistic complexity and the mathematics that lurk in every corner of it. Having worked with projects ranging from different domains like Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing, etc., I have a knack for understanding data with the help of visualization and go-to analytical methodologies.
Q: How did you come to know about AID?
Merishna : I learned about the launch of AID and the initiatives through the “Developer Sessions” AI group on Facebook.
Pragyan : I had first heard about AID after joining the Developer Sessions group in Facebook and saw the vision and purpose of the organization through posts on the same group.
Q: What made you join AID Community Leaders Program?
Merishna : When I first decided to start working on an AI project of my own, what I felt was lacking the most was a proper guidance. The vision and motive of the AID Community Leaders program to change this perspective of AI education in Nepal was the main driving factor for me to join this program.
Pragyan : I started learning and working on Artificial Intelligence at a young age and didn’t have many people around me doing the same. This created a barrier to accelerated learning and thus I had to rely on myself for figuring out what to do. But now, being an employed AI researcher and developer, I wanted to help others build their skills and knowledge about AI so that they could progress much faster than I did. Bridging communication among senior data scientists with young AI enthusiast, helping peers and getting help back from other community leaders were some more tempting reasons for joining the AID Community Leaders Program.
Q: What are your motivations for organizing such workshops at your college?
Merishna : The workshops being conducted in my college were mostly introductory and related to web development or mobile applications. Having a separate AI community with weekly learning sessions have proved to be really beneficial for the members of the community. Moreover, the positive learning environment and enthusiastic members are what motivates me the most.
Pragyan : During my first/second year learning Computer Engineering, most of my college seniors were busy developing Android/iOS apps, websites and such and conducted workshops on the same from time to time help us. Artificial Intelligence was only a buzz term and only a few had known about it. So, in hopes of aiding and helping my juniors as well as seniors to learn, understand and work in AI projects quickly, I wanted to organize in-depth AI workshops at my college.
Q: What are your plans for your future?
Merishna : It’s been a great learning experience so far organizing the workshops in my college as a team of two. In the future, I plan on working together with community leaders from different colleges to organize more advanced level workshops for a larger audience of AI enthusiasts in Nepal. Moreover, bridging the gap between educational knowledge and the industry skills is an important aspect that I would like to work on in the future.
Pragyan : For the future, I plan to collaborate with other community leaders in order to give the most to the community members. Organizing large-scale events allow exposure to the nurtured AI projects at different colleges and also helps AI learners for getting to know other enthusiasts better for collaborative learning. I also plan to bring different domain AI experts of Nepal to guide the students on what is needed of an AI researcher in the real-world for actual development.
It’s already inspiring to see so many young enthusiasts excited about working in AI and most importantly they are motivated not only to learn but to give something back to their community which is a highly admirable thing to do considering their age factor.
In coming days, I will be sharing more of such news covering the local talents from Nepal, their aspirations and contributions to the society in terms of Artificial Intelligence. We are proud of their contributions and excited to see what other Community Leaders will do in their community in the future as well.
If you are interested in learning more about our events and project, please consider visiting our official website or if you are on Facebook, consider joining our community group to interact with us directly. If you are a student living in Nepal and interested in joining our Community Leaders Program, please go through this link to learn more.
Author: Kshitiz Rimal
Kshitiz Rimal is an AI Developer and Researcher. He is Head of Research at Artificial Intelligence for Development, a not-for-profit research organization which aims to develop solutions to existing community problems using AI. He is also Intel AI Ambassador and Kathmandu Ambassador at CityAI.