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Pakistan is in the Need for Speed in AI Race

Pakistan is on the verge of missing AI Revolution, What to do?

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For the sake of sustainable economic growth and global dominance, developed countries are heavily investing in AI research and development. As a result, they are excelling in growth of various sectors ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to telecom and finance. Beyond question, the next super power will be the one with the most advancements in information technology where AI sits at its heart.

According to Investment Monitor, the US tops AI ranking with an indexed score of 100, followed by Singapore and Switzerland scoring 67.22 and 67.14 respectively. Pakistan, the 6th largest population of the world, is not seen anywhere in the list of 40 countries, where India stands at 29th rank and Philippines at 36th.

One thing we can learn from countries with AI policy is they had academia as their backbone for a tangible impact of AI on the economy. AI and machine learning is not like Software Development. It involves a lot of experimentation just like any academic science experiment. So like academic research, the hypotheses are developed and experimentation is conducted before it is ready for industrial implementation.

Academicians’ View on the Need of AI Advancements

I had the honor to moderate a panel discussion with the senior academicians of Pakistan in the 3rd AI Summit where they shared their point of view on the importance of AI and the underlying challenges that need to be addressed. My panelists were:

  • Dr. Yassar Ayaz, Chairman at National Center of Artificial Intelligence, Professor of A.I & Robotics, NUST
  • Dr. Saad Rehman, Dean Faculty of Sciences, HoD Computer Engineering HITEC University Taxila
  • Dr. Jameel Ahmed, Dean Faculty of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Riphah International University
  • Dr. Raja Hashim Ali, Assistant Professor (GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology)

Smart Cities, and Digital Media are top priority areas

My question from Dr. Yassar Ayaz was regarding his views about the top AI priority sectors of Pakistan where Academia and Industry should join hands to bring tangible outcomes.

He said that beyond security, Smart Cities should be the priority area which can leverage AI to bring tangible results. He added, for example AI can be used in water distribution systems to know how pressure of water will result in the domestic and industrial water supply in a particular region.

Secondly, using AI for Digital Media and Social Media should also be a top priority to build a modern democratic nation, he added. He further said that Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan and needs to be a prime focus as well. World is standing at Industry 4.0 but Pakistan is still struggling with Industry 3.0 due to lack of AI adaptability, he added.

Dr. Jameel, added to the same question and mentioned that every 5th person in Pakistan carries Hepatitis B or C, and he firmly believes industry and academia jointly using AI can play a vital role in its prevention and cure. He further said that we must be focused on socio-economic issues of Pakistan where AI can bring a tangible impact on the economy of Pakistan.

Dr. Saad’s response was very thought provoking when inquired about the approach to AI industrial-academic partnerships and the hurdles being faced. He said it needs to be a three tier strategy where one tier is the Government, second is the industry and third is the academia.

National AI Policy and Industrial R&D is needed

He further mentioned that the national level AI policy needs to be devised by the Government of Pakistan, while considering the ultimate benefit for the citizens of Pakistan. He said that the sad part is no large enterprise is re-investing in R&D while Academia also needs to step forward more aggressively. He further talked about his engagement at Sialkot Technology park where they worked on Football’s air profiling, but the football manufacturers were reluctant to use this technology.

After the cyber security attacks on the banking sector in Pakistan, he said he approached various banks for the access of their data for the purpose of R&D and future prevention of attacks while signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement, but the banks were reluctant too in sharing their data.

Facebook allows their researchers to spend approximately 20% of their time at colleges, which encourages recruitment for Facebook and enables professors to teach classes and communicate with students. How do you think this can be replicated in Pakistan?

In response to this question, Dr. Hashim said that we need to create awareness in the industry about the benefits of investing in academia which ultimately is going to benefit them back. The Government also needs to come up with a plan to encourage the industry to practice this methodology in exchange for various attractive perks from the Government.

Focus on research in industry demanded topics

One question that came from the audience was regarding the challenges of job placement for fresh graduates and the Government’s strategy towards employability of fresh graduates on the high tech skills like AI.

In response to that question, Dr. Jameel mentioned that the graduates and researchers need to focus on the industry demanded skills. Instead of doing research for the purpose of research is not the right approach, he added. He further mentioned that the Government needs to step in with a solid policy to ensure the industrial and academic needs of placements are addressed.

I further added that the students need to step early into their career during their graduation, so by the time they graduate, they already have a couple of years of industrial experience. Google, Apple, and IBM already have waived the need to degree in their applicant criteria. I further added that there is a dire need for a national level tech learning and employability platform where academia and industry work jointly to produce what is needed in the industry.

Current AI R&D Initiatives and What’s missing?

Having AI as its backbone, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting every sector globally. No past generations have witnessed such an innovative landscape. Calling it “AI Revolution” instead, will not be an understatement.

The global AI industry stands at a whopping $178 Billion market size and forecasted to grow up to $15.7 trillion by 2030. In order to get the maximum chunk of this forecasted market size, Pakistan needs to start investing heavily on AI. First things first, a solid National AI Policy needs to be created through which the challenges of all stakeholders must be addressed.

The Digital Pakistan Policy in 2018 has been a great effort aimed at economic development of the country followed by many Government level projects with the same vision. All these efforts seem to be made in the right direction, unfortunately the pace has been slow.

It must be noted that digitalization is only the first step which generates real usage data for successful AI implementations. The digitalization in the first world countries has long since passed and are sitting on the gold mine of Data which is being leveraged via AI.

In March 2018, the Government granted Rs.1.1 billion to launch its first AI initiative called NCAI (National Center for Artificial Intelligence) which comprises nine AI labs in six universities. The aim of this initiative is to empower the AI research and industrial application for sustainable economic growth. The labs include:

  1. Deep Learning lab at NUST, Islamabad
  2. Intelligent Robotics lab at NUST, Islamabad
  3. Medical Imaging And Diagnostics lab at COMSATS, Islamabad
  4. Smart City lab at NED, Karachi
  5. Neurocomputation lab at NED, Karachi
  6. Intelligent Information Processing lab at UET, Peshawar
  7. Intelligent System Design lab at UET, Peshawar
  8. Intelligent Criminology lab at UET, Lahore
  9. Agent based Computational Modeling lab at UOP, Lahore

During the last four years, some great initiatives of AI related skill development have been launched and successfully completed by MoITT, PSEB, KPITB, and NAVTTC.

A fully subsidized training followed by OEM level international certification is offered to the final year students, fresh graduates and working professionals; which otherwise is not in the budget of the common man.

Another such great initiative was taken by President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi called the PIAIC (Presidential Initiative on Artificial Intelligence and Computing). This initiative is having the same vision of AI skill development. Considering the need for AI in the industry, many universities have launched Masters and Bachelors degree programs in AI.

However, one thing that is still missing is a detailed visibility of job placements, IT Exports by these graduates and brain drain to overseas opportunities. Furthermore, there is a lack of efforts by the Government to internationally promote Pakistani freelancers’ expertise in AI.

Many private AI skill development initiatives have been launched by the Industry at their own. Dice Analytics is one such example. They have trained 5000+ people in the field of Data Analytics. They conduct public training programs led by industry professionals and the outcomes are applaudable. Dice Analytics offers the following programs: Data Science & Machine Learning, Deep Learning for AI, Big Data, Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence.

One of their missions is to bridge the industry-academia gaps through high tech bootcamps, career counselling and job placements. Being partners with all top universities and corporate sectors, they have many success stories of fulfilling the shortcomings of both sides.

Conclusion

We see many AI initiatives in Pakistan by various stakeholders but unfortunately they are done in silos without having any unified strategic planning, and therefore lack in achieving tangible impact in the economy of Pakistan.

In order to sustain in the global economic and political landscape, Pakistan needs to have a national level AI policy. And next to that, a great implementation team with clear objectives and goals in a time-bound manner.

The AI policy needs to clearly address the roles of Government, Academia and Industry in order to secure the interests of citizens of Pakistan. It further needs to focus on the Innovation, R&D, Computing Infrastructure, Data Resources, Workforce development and apprenticeship, STEM Education, Vocational Training, and last but not the least the Values of Pakistan.

Further to that, priority sectors need to be identified where AI can bring the most tangible impact. For example, Agriculture contributes more than 20% to the GDP of Pakistan. AI adaptability can increase the produce and reduce the costs, thus more exports and better GDP.

Motion comes from Emotion! Pakistan needs a leadership that is patriotic and has a vision to lift Pakistan. Current government showed intentions of introducing AI Policy, but considering the current political instability, it doesn’t seem to be coming soon!

Umer Ch
Umer Ch
An experienced executive with a vision to build a sustainable economy of Pakistan via youth empowerment on cutting-edge technologies. Skilled in Data Analytics, Software Architecture Designing, Management, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Planning.
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Pakistan is in the Need for Speed in AI Race

Pakistan is on the verge of missing AI Revolution, What to do?

For the sake of sustainable economic growth and global dominance, developed countries are heavily investing in AI research and development. As a result, they are excelling in growth of various sectors ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to telecom and finance. Beyond question, the next super power will be the one with the most advancements in information technology where AI sits at its heart.

According to Investment Monitor, the US tops AI ranking with an indexed score of 100, followed by Singapore and Switzerland scoring 67.22 and 67.14 respectively. Pakistan, the 6th largest population of the world, is not seen anywhere in the list of 40 countries, where India stands at 29th rank and Philippines at 36th.

One thing we can learn from countries with AI policy is they had academia as their backbone for a tangible impact of AI on the economy. AI and machine learning is not like Software Development. It involves a lot of experimentation just like any academic science experiment. So like academic research, the hypotheses are developed and experimentation is conducted before it is ready for industrial implementation.

Academicians’ View on the Need of AI Advancements

I had the honor to moderate a panel discussion with the senior academicians of Pakistan in the 3rd AI Summit where they shared their point of view on the importance of AI and the underlying challenges that need to be addressed. My panelists were:

  • Dr. Yassar Ayaz, Chairman at National Center of Artificial Intelligence, Professor of A.I & Robotics, NUST
  • Dr. Saad Rehman, Dean Faculty of Sciences, HoD Computer Engineering HITEC University Taxila
  • Dr. Jameel Ahmed, Dean Faculty of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Riphah International University
  • Dr. Raja Hashim Ali, Assistant Professor (GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology)

Smart Cities, and Digital Media are top priority areas

My question from Dr. Yassar Ayaz was regarding his views about the top AI priority sectors of Pakistan where Academia and Industry should join hands to bring tangible outcomes.

He said that beyond security, Smart Cities should be the priority area which can leverage AI to bring tangible results. He added, for example AI can be used in water distribution systems to know how pressure of water will result in the domestic and industrial water supply in a particular region.

Secondly, using AI for Digital Media and Social Media should also be a top priority to build a modern democratic nation, he added. He further said that Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan and needs to be a prime focus as well. World is standing at Industry 4.0 but Pakistan is still struggling with Industry 3.0 due to lack of AI adaptability, he added.

Dr. Jameel, added to the same question and mentioned that every 5th person in Pakistan carries Hepatitis B or C, and he firmly believes industry and academia jointly using AI can play a vital role in its prevention and cure. He further said that we must be focused on socio-economic issues of Pakistan where AI can bring a tangible impact on the economy of Pakistan.

Dr. Saad’s response was very thought provoking when inquired about the approach to AI industrial-academic partnerships and the hurdles being faced. He said it needs to be a three tier strategy where one tier is the Government, second is the industry and third is the academia.

National AI Policy and Industrial R&D is needed

He further mentioned that the national level AI policy needs to be devised by the Government of Pakistan, while considering the ultimate benefit for the citizens of Pakistan. He said that the sad part is no large enterprise is re-investing in R&D while Academia also needs to step forward more aggressively. He further talked about his engagement at Sialkot Technology park where they worked on Football’s air profiling, but the football manufacturers were reluctant to use this technology.

After the cyber security attacks on the banking sector in Pakistan, he said he approached various banks for the access of their data for the purpose of R&D and future prevention of attacks while signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement, but the banks were reluctant too in sharing their data.

Facebook allows their researchers to spend approximately 20% of their time at colleges, which encourages recruitment for Facebook and enables professors to teach classes and communicate with students. How do you think this can be replicated in Pakistan?

In response to this question, Dr. Hashim said that we need to create awareness in the industry about the benefits of investing in academia which ultimately is going to benefit them back. The Government also needs to come up with a plan to encourage the industry to practice this methodology in exchange for various attractive perks from the Government.

Focus on research in industry demanded topics

One question that came from the audience was regarding the challenges of job placement for fresh graduates and the Government’s strategy towards employability of fresh graduates on the high tech skills like AI.

In response to that question, Dr. Jameel mentioned that the graduates and researchers need to focus on the industry demanded skills. Instead of doing research for the purpose of research is not the right approach, he added. He further mentioned that the Government needs to step in with a solid policy to ensure the industrial and academic needs of placements are addressed.

I further added that the students need to step early into their career during their graduation, so by the time they graduate, they already have a couple of years of industrial experience. Google, Apple, and IBM already have waived the need to degree in their applicant criteria. I further added that there is a dire need for a national level tech learning and employability platform where academia and industry work jointly to produce what is needed in the industry.

Current AI R&D Initiatives and What’s missing?

Having AI as its backbone, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting every sector globally. No past generations have witnessed such an innovative landscape. Calling it “AI Revolution” instead, will not be an understatement.

The global AI industry stands at a whopping $178 Billion market size and forecasted to grow up to $15.7 trillion by 2030. In order to get the maximum chunk of this forecasted market size, Pakistan needs to start investing heavily on AI. First things first, a solid National AI Policy needs to be created through which the challenges of all stakeholders must be addressed.

The Digital Pakistan Policy in 2018 has been a great effort aimed at economic development of the country followed by many Government level projects with the same vision. All these efforts seem to be made in the right direction, unfortunately the pace has been slow.

It must be noted that digitalization is only the first step which generates real usage data for successful AI implementations. The digitalization in the first world countries has long since passed and are sitting on the gold mine of Data which is being leveraged via AI.

In March 2018, the Government granted Rs.1.1 billion to launch its first AI initiative called NCAI (National Center for Artificial Intelligence) which comprises nine AI labs in six universities. The aim of this initiative is to empower the AI research and industrial application for sustainable economic growth. The labs include:

  1. Deep Learning lab at NUST, Islamabad
  2. Intelligent Robotics lab at NUST, Islamabad
  3. Medical Imaging And Diagnostics lab at COMSATS, Islamabad
  4. Smart City lab at NED, Karachi
  5. Neurocomputation lab at NED, Karachi
  6. Intelligent Information Processing lab at UET, Peshawar
  7. Intelligent System Design lab at UET, Peshawar
  8. Intelligent Criminology lab at UET, Lahore
  9. Agent based Computational Modeling lab at UOP, Lahore

During the last four years, some great initiatives of AI related skill development have been launched and successfully completed by MoITT, PSEB, KPITB, and NAVTTC.

A fully subsidized training followed by OEM level international certification is offered to the final year students, fresh graduates and working professionals; which otherwise is not in the budget of the common man.

Another such great initiative was taken by President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi called the PIAIC (Presidential Initiative on Artificial Intelligence and Computing). This initiative is having the same vision of AI skill development. Considering the need for AI in the industry, many universities have launched Masters and Bachelors degree programs in AI.

However, one thing that is still missing is a detailed visibility of job placements, IT Exports by these graduates and brain drain to overseas opportunities. Furthermore, there is a lack of efforts by the Government to internationally promote Pakistani freelancers’ expertise in AI.

Many private AI skill development initiatives have been launched by the Industry at their own. Dice Analytics is one such example. They have trained 5000+ people in the field of Data Analytics. They conduct public training programs led by industry professionals and the outcomes are applaudable. Dice Analytics offers the following programs: Data Science & Machine Learning, Deep Learning for AI, Big Data, Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence.

One of their missions is to bridge the industry-academia gaps through high tech bootcamps, career counselling and job placements. Being partners with all top universities and corporate sectors, they have many success stories of fulfilling the shortcomings of both sides.

Conclusion

We see many AI initiatives in Pakistan by various stakeholders but unfortunately they are done in silos without having any unified strategic planning, and therefore lack in achieving tangible impact in the economy of Pakistan.

In order to sustain in the global economic and political landscape, Pakistan needs to have a national level AI policy. And next to that, a great implementation team with clear objectives and goals in a time-bound manner.

The AI policy needs to clearly address the roles of Government, Academia and Industry in order to secure the interests of citizens of Pakistan. It further needs to focus on the Innovation, R&D, Computing Infrastructure, Data Resources, Workforce development and apprenticeship, STEM Education, Vocational Training, and last but not the least the Values of Pakistan.

Further to that, priority sectors need to be identified where AI can bring the most tangible impact. For example, Agriculture contributes more than 20% to the GDP of Pakistan. AI adaptability can increase the produce and reduce the costs, thus more exports and better GDP.

Motion comes from Emotion! Pakistan needs a leadership that is patriotic and has a vision to lift Pakistan. Current government showed intentions of introducing AI Policy, but considering the current political instability, it doesn’t seem to be coming soon!

Umer Ch
Umer Ch
An experienced executive with a vision to build a sustainable economy of Pakistan via youth empowerment on cutting-edge technologies. Skilled in Data Analytics, Software Architecture Designing, Management, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Planning.
RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular