Kohima: When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020 and gates of schools across Nagaland were forced to shut, eight-year-old Zaiyigum Zeliang turned to something he hadn’t even heard of till then.

A student of Dimapur’s Hollotoli School, Zaiyigum took the opportunity to learn coding and today he is one of Nagaland’s youngest certified App developers.

As EastMojo caught up with the young coder, an excited Zaiyigum said, “I’m enjoying coding a lot.”

The Class 3 student and his father Kangzang Zeliang recently teamed up for Start-Up Nagaland’s Hackathon 2021 powered by the Department of Industries & commerce and EduCentre held from August 2-20. The father-son duo not only secured second place in the competition but also won the Best Social Media Team award, winning a cash prize of Rs 25,000, the result for which was announced on Monday.

Zaiyigum and his father Kangzang Zeliang teamed up and secured second place in the Start-Up Nagaland’s Hackathon 2021 competition

“I feel great to have won second position in the competition. Partnering with my father was great,” Zaiyigum said.

Speaking with EastMojo, his father Kangzang said, “We introduced him to coding in April last year through an online learning platform. With keen interest, Zaiyigum managed to complete 144 beginners classes in early July this year. He is now on his way to complete six master classes and will further advance to learn programming at a professional level.”

The proud father added, “For the competition, he made a prototype for an App called ‘Feed the Needy’, an App meant for charity through which people can donate extra food— cooked or uncooked — to the needy. After conducting a minimum viable product (MVP) drive, it was renamed ‘Give the Needy’, as we received suggestions to explore beyond food, where people can also donate books, kitchen wares, furniture, and anything, to those in need.”

Kangzang said the idea was to encourage people to do charity and at the same time maintain a balance of livelihood. “I was involved in the competition because the minimum requirement for the team was two people. I was just a cover up,” the father humbly said.  

An extremely proud Kangzang, who is an entrepreneur, said both him and his wife did not expect their young son to make it this far. “Initially, he had no knowledge about computers or smartphones. We never allowed him to use smartphones, so he never got to play games on the mobile phone. When schools were closed, we thought that the kids would be bored. That is how we introduced him to coding classes,” he said.

Another App in the making

Zaiyigum has also been working on an App called the PTI (Parents Teachers Interaction) App since last year. As the pandemic was raging across the country, the young boy brainstormed to create digital communication between parents and teachers and keep track of their performances. Both the apps will be formally launched between 4-6 weeks, the father said.

“Back then, he had the concept but was not equipped with the required knowledge. His thought was advanced and his concept was clear. Although it took over a year for him to learn and develop the app, it will soon be available for launch,” Kangzang informed.

The father said Zaiyigum learnt to use the computer and access emails in about a month’s time. “It came as a surprise for us. We thought that he is doing something beyond his age and so we continued to encourage him,” he said.

Increased demand for skilled programmers in state

Atoba Longkumer, technology officer at Kohima Smart City Development Limited (KSCDL), shared his excitement about Zaiyigum’s interest in coding and his recent achievement. 

“It’s quite encouraging to see young people coming forward to learn how to code and get interested in this field. At the same time, seeing the parents being very supportive of their children to learn programming skills is also very impressive,” he said.

With businesses growing online, the officer said, there is now an increased demand for skilled programmers in the state. He shared how the state has a “massive” scope for a career in this field.

He encouraged upcoming programmers to build a strong foundation in mathematics, logic and reasoning. 

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