Published: 12th November 2018
IIIT-H student Lalitha Kameswari became the proud national winner of Mytrah Talks
Lalitha Kameswari presented her research on language and how it impacts politics at the talks
When we meet Lalitha Kameswari, the first thing she talks about is her love for languages. Born in Hyderabad, brought up in New Delhi and Mumbai, Lalitha came back to Hyderabad during her class X. By then, she knew English, Hindi, Marathi and slowly, she picked up Telugu too. A sporadic poet and a vigorous debater, she chose to pursue BTech in Computer Science and MS in Computational Linguistics from International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad.
Lalitha expresses that, “I met people who started their research in their second or third year, but I wanted to do it right from my first year,” and she did. Her senior, Rama Rohit Reddy, was already working on trying to understand how language impacts politics and how one can develop tools which help analyse language. She decided to team up with him and do her bit for the research.
Lalitha is a trained classical vocalist. Since class IV, she has been writing short stories and poems
When we request her to explain the research, she tells us that it revolved around a few things. “We tried to understand how the languages that political leaders use while delivering speeches impact their victory. In the future, we want to create a tool that predicts the result of an election based on the campaign speeches delivered by the politicians,” explains the 19-year-old.
They took the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly Elections of 2014 as an example and analysed the speeches of TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, YSR CP’s YS Jaganmohan Reddy and actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan. “The motive of politicians is to persuade you to vote for them. It is important for politicians to know how to use language to connect with the audience in a better way and it is also important for people to understand what the main context of their speech is and not get carried away with what the politicians say,” she says. They went through more than 13,000 articles to train a model to see how bias works and invested three months to just collect the data.
All smiles: Lalitha Kameswari is a student of International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad | Pic: Vinay Madapu
Upon encouragement from Dr Radhika Mamidi from the Language Technologies Research Center at IIIT-H, the duo presented their research at Mytrah Talks. The aim of the talks was to provide a platform for all those ideas that help shape a sustainable future. They not only won the Hyderabad city finals but also the national finals. They received their prize from Ramon Magsaysay awardee Dr Sonam Wangchuk and Vikram Kailas, Co-founder, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Mytrah Energy. “I was so thrilled to be receiving the award from Dr Wangchuk. He was so sweet and offered to help me carry the prizes to my hostel,” she gushes and adds that the innovator also asked her about her definition of a social ecosystem.
When we ask Lalitha about the bias against women in tech, she says that even she had been through her fair share of 'regressive comments. "People even asked my father why he wanted me to pursue CS since I am a girl," says Lalitha, but the healthy gender ratio in her class (in her class of Computational Linguistics, they have eight boys and eight girls) assures her of the bright future for women in tech.
Decoding AP’s top politicos and what they said in AP Assembly Elections 2014
N Chandrababu Naidu
He used a positive vocabulary and words which emphasised his experience. He used phrases like ‘I have done’ and ‘We will do’
Reddy used words like ‘I could have done’, ‘They did not do’, which did not really do anything to reassure voters