Aryan Siddiqui, a grade 11 student of British School Muscat, who like scores of students around the world has been caught up in the upheaval in education due to the uncompromising grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, had many of his aspirations quashed overnight. However, this avid computer whizkid put his computer science skills to work and developed a few mobile applications to help feed the hungry in India by connecting needy people with the right philanthropic sources. Here’s what he has to say:
Amidst the breaking news of a viral epidemic in China on the 1st of March, I was wholeheartedly engrossed in my upcoming GCSE exams. Little did I know, at that point in time, that my entire 2020 academic schedule would go haywire. After finishing my summer exams, I was planning on attending an Artificial Intelligence course at MIT. But life had some other plans for me.
Events drastically unfolded as the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11 and Oman subsequently went into a lockdown. Virtually overnight, everything changed; stay-at-home orders were put into place, all schools in Oman went online and all external activities were cancelled.
I had never imagined that the lockdown would continue on through my summer vacation. I was nervous, frustrated as things were changing around me. Masks, sanitisers, gloves became the new norm, ‘stay home, stay safe’, the new hashtags as COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the world as an acute public health and economic crisis. But I decided to remain resilient and put my head down and continue to work.
The COVID-19 cases are still towering across the globe, with hospitals flooded and world economies drowned, sparking global recession and a deep humanitarian crisis. With the physical world virtually shutting down under the impact of the pandemic, the digital world is stepping in to fill the void.
Out of thispandemic, the world is revolutionising. History reminds us that the strongest leaders and successful entrepreneurs are created during times of crises. With crisis comes opportunity. Breakthrough technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and biotechnology are reshaping the future of the world’s economy.
I have always been passionate about AI; always loved to deep dive into the realms of cutting-edge technology. The recent economic landscape has reinforced my interests in the rapidly evolving field of AI. AI technology has been at the forefront of battling the pandemic by predicting the pattern of COVID-19 outbreaks and forecasting future infection cycles. AI has allowed us to comprehend and limit the spread of the pandemic to some extent.
In fact, BlueDot, an AI based algorithm, was among the first to identify the emerging risk of an outbreak, a week before the WHO.Robots such as XR-1 Cloud Ginger are acting as virtual nurses and doctors to provide contact free options instead of human-to-human interaction in contaminated environments.
As an avid computer scientist and responsible member of society, I decided to contribute my bit to the community by putting my computer science skills into work. I decided to develop a few mobile applications with an underlying goal to help poor communities back in India, whereby we raised funds to feed the hungry by connecting the needy people to the right philanthropic sources.
I also utilised this time to create new initiatives such as Project Tech Talk (@projecttechtalk on Instagram) aimed at spreading computer literacy across Oman. The lockdown period also provided me with an opportunity to enjoy my other passion: reading. I am currently engrossed in ‘AI Superpowers’, which explores the future of AI, specifically focusing on how China is emerging as a tech titan.
Definitely, the pandemic has left an unfathomable mark on our lives. Most of us are confined to the four walls of our homes void of the normal life we took for granted and are left with a long trail of distressing memories. But, as Roy T Bennett (author and thought leader) rightly says, ‘Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.’ I believe, just like the darkness of the night is always followed by the beautiful light of the day, the curve will eventually flatten and the crisis will end. Many vaccines are in their third stage of clinical trials showing promising results.
I am a firm believer in Greek philosopher, Heraclitus’ philosophy that ‘Nothing is permanent in this world except change’. This phase too shall pass and bring back the lost happiness; those boys chats during mid-day breaks at school, those laughters, those coffee outings with buddies, those movie weekends with our loved ones, those football sessions at the field. Yes, I really miss all that.
There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I am optimistic, the happy ‘normal’ will be back!