Field open: Iqbal urges youth to explore artificial intelligence

Published: March 17, 2018


Mass distribution of laptops has helped flourish digital entrepreneurship among the young people of Pakistan, said Minister for Interior and Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal.

Speaking at the inauguration of National Centre of Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) at the main campus of National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) on Friday, Iqbal emphasised the importance of artificial intelligence for modern knowledge-based economies.

Encouraging youth to take up research and education in the fields relating to artificial intelligence and robotics, he mentioned how the federal government’s laptop scheme has changed the knowledge landscape in Pakistan and brought it to one of the leading countries in the world in terms of IT-based entrepreneurship.

Laptop distribution phase-I announced

NCAI is the latest technological initiative of government under Vision 2025. The centre is designed to become the leading hub of innovation, scientific research, knowledge transfer to local economy, and training in the area of artificial intelligence and its closely affiliated fields, he said.

Ahsan said the central aim is to facilitate the researchers in the field of artificial intelligence; help them establish and grow artificial intelligence industry following international trends and seek solutions to the indigenous problems through artificial intelligence.

Approved by the government in January, NCAI is designed on a consortium model where the most leading researchers in the field are identified on competitive grounds and new labs are established under their supervision.

The project has a funding of around Rs1.1 billion which is to be expended in three years for development and initial running of the following main labs located in six universities of Pakistan. These include Deep Learning Lab at NUST, Islamabad, Intelligent Field Robotics Lab at NUST, Islamabad, Medical Imaging and Diagnostics Lab at CIIT, Islamabad, Smart City Lab at NED UET, Karachi, Neuro-computation Lab at NED UET, Karachi, Intelligent Information Processing Lab at UET Peshawar, Intelligent System Design Lab at UET Peshawar, Intelligent Criminology Lab at UET Lahore, Agent Based Modeling Lab at Punjab University, Lahore.

The labs and their respective principal investigators have been selected through competitive evaluation and rigorous selection process carried out by Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Planning Commission of Pakistan. Out of all the chosen top researchers of artificial intelligence in Pakistan,
NUST has been chosen as the lead university on competitive grounds.

Education reforms: 3,215 laptops distributed

In his remarks on the occasion, Lt Gen (retd) Naweed Zaman appreciated the joint efforts of team of researchers from six universities that worked in close collaboration for preparing the proposal of the National Centre. The inauguration ceremony was attended by experts of artificial intelligence both from academia and industry as well as students of artificial intelligence and robotics from various universities across Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2018.

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