New Delhi: Struck by the horror of being kidnapped at the age of six, computer engineer Shashank Singh teamed up with a colleague to develop a mobile application that traces lost children and re-unites them with their families.
The initiative named 'Helping Faceless' uses technology such as 'Face Recognition' and data analytics to combat child trafficking and help a lost child connect with family.
"We want to help the vulnerable street children with the help of data and technology," says Singh, founder of the initiative who holds a Bachelors in Technology in Computer Science.
The mobile app, available for download on the Google Play store and installed by volunteers aims to help vulnerable children by clicking a picture of them and guiding them to the nearest police station. The volunteers work on a short and long term basis to help the needy children.
The initiative had made it to the top 5 innovations recognised by CNN-IBN's initiative "Networked India", which aims to identify and felicitate clutter-breaking innovations in the field of connectivity and mobility.
"We have an android app installed in phones used by our volunteers and wherever they find the children who are lost or in need of help, they take a picture, says S Sai Meera co-founder of the initiative.
There are two ways, explains Meera, through which the app can be of help to the children -- the short term way or for the long term.
"We help children in two ways. One is the short term way of helping the kids in which we take the child to the nearest police station. The police conducts inquiries and takes the child to the children's welfare committee or the observational home.
"In the long term way we run the photo of the lost child through our database, which sports an algorithm that is supposed to be 96 per cent accurate. This is then manually verified and finally we reach the observational homes and help the child further," says Meera.
Singh says he was kidnapped from a lawyer's office in Lucknow when he was a child and remained missing for 14 to 15 hours. He was traced through a network of rickshaw pullers operating in the city.
"The idea came from personal encounter when I was myself kidnapped at the age of 6 from an area in Lucknow when I had gone with my father. A network of rickshawallas operating in the city helped to rescue me.
"So I had an idea in my mind and met Meera at a lecture at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. We finally we came on board for an app to help the needy children," says Shashank.
The initiative which is a self-funded one operates all throughout the country with a strong base in Mumbai. The founders say they owe their success in the financial capital to the volunteers and the co-operation of the Mumbai police.
"This is a self funded endeavour though we are looking for funds to reach worldwide. Our app works throughout the country but it is more active in Mumbai.
"This is because we have more volunteers there and Mumbai police is very co-operative. Infact the Navi Mumbai Police and the Thane police have also agreed to implement this," says Meera.
The initiative has helped in rescuing three children one from Ludhiana and two others from Ghatkopar and Wadala in Mumbai.
The founders say they aim to expand their initiative internationally and help the children in every part of the world.
"We tend to go international in the next few years and inspite continental boundaries we want to help the children wherever its possible," says Singh.