Where do Pakistan stand in AI race?

18 Aug

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has left a positive influence on the world. Let it be the complex task of image analysis, text translation, speech recognition, and so forth. The aspect which makes AI relatable and interesting is its proof of work which is mostly not observed in the field of Cloud/Edge computing and Blockchain. A wide range of industries have adopted and transformed themselves with the use of AI, let it be Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, and many more. I can write about the feats which AI has achieved in recent years from beating humans in games to autonomous self-driving cars but that’s not the point of this article. This column aims to let people know where we as a nation stand in the race of adopting AI technologies and on which of its aspects our government needs to focus. Let’s explore a few areas where AI can help in improving the country’s economy.

Figure 1 Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC). Image courtesy: Google
  • Tourism

Have you heard about “AirBnB” [1] or similar applications? If not, then it’s time to make our own. Our northern areas are the hub of tourist spots both for the nationals and foreigners but do the locals get enough benefit? Can’t we just make a list of the local peoples sharing their rooms, food, and utensils for a couple of days in exchange for a reasonable rent? Most of the foreigners when visiting a country like to experience the traditions, culture, and hospitality along with the spot which they want to visit. This will not only propagate a positive image of our country which has been represented by some Instagram travel influencers visiting Pakistan recently but also benefit the locals and in turn the economic cycle (in the form of taxes).

Figure 2 Tourism empowered by AI, Web and Android technologies. Image Courtesy: Google

Now how can AI help? Considering we have a list of locals wanting to share their place along with some attributes like location, nearby tourist spot, food, availability of internet, room size, and so forth, AI can recommend these residential places to the national and international tourists planning to visit in advance. Now the complexity of the recommendation system varies with the preferences, like availability of windows showing scenic views, sharing of a kitchen, availability of Internet connection, and so forth. There are two main benefits of using AI for tourism in Pakistan. The first is of course the financial benefit which can be observed through tax returns and the second is the sustainability of the ecosystem which is caused due to the continuous construction of hotels and buildings in the beautiful northern areas. We have seen what the constructors have done to the city of Murree in the last 20 years. Now let’s move to the next area which is:

  • Farming

It is known globally that Pakistan is an agricultural country and how many measures have been taken to improve the farming process through the use of technology? Well, this question is enough to let the government think about what has been done so far. I assume that everyone in our country takes the agricultural aspect for granted. With the rising population of our country, it would be a challenge for the farmers to feed the population with the available land. Furthermore, this challenge is stacked by weather conditions, and threats like pests, and weeds. These challenges heavily affect the quantity and quality of food. It has been proven by the analysts at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and Penn State that the smart machines can help farmers to overcome some of the challenges with consistency, efficiency, and precision [2]. For instance, EPFL gathered 53k images of unhealthy and healthy plants to construct an autonomous differentiating system between infectious and non-infectious plants. The system developed was quite accurate and differentiated the plants with a precision rate of almost 99%. Similarly, Blue River Technology [3], developed a system with help of AI integrated cameras and robots to drive and intelligently spray through fields such that it only targets the weeds while keeping the crops intact. With a similar stance, a Berlin-based startup developed a system (Plantix) [4], that can find nutrient deficiencies and potential defects in the soil through image analysis.

Figure 3 Plantix app for detecting diseases in Plants [4]

Canadian based SkySquirrel technologies [5] use Drones to perform crop analysis and a Colorado-based company [6] uses AI to evaluate farms, analyze crop sustainability in relation to the weather prediction. Being an agricultural country, shouldn’t we be focusing on and developing such systems while integrating AI? That is the question which the government needs to ask for now as agriculture is one of the sectors which can help retain economic development.

  • Healthcare

With the spread of COVID-19 infection, it just not wreaked the economic industry but also tested the healthcare facilities and affected the population with psychological diseases to a great extent. One of the setbacks in terms of handling COVID-19 infection is the scale at which tests were conducted. It has been proven widely that RT-PCR testing has a sensitivity of 91% [7], yet we have solely relied on the PCR testing so far. The world has moved towards the potential triage methods for increasing the scale of tests such as CT-scans, chest X-rays, Antigen tests, and so forth. Considering the lack of experts, AI can be used extensively with medical images to separate the potential COVID-19 patients from normal or bacterial pneumonia affected ones through analyzing CT-Scans and chest X-rays. However, our government had not explored any options other than the RT-PCR. Moreover, with social distancing and isolation, many patients have developed symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, and so forth. Smartphones and smartwatches have been the primary accessories people wear and use to perform communication. Exploring the capabilities of these wearable devices beyond their communication capabilities not only can help researchers and doctors to identify stress and depression but also help them to analyze their behavior patterns which elicit such stressful conditions [8 – 10]. Even further, these wearables can also help in finding physical activity anomalies for sick and elders living independently [8].

Figure 4 Healthcare Internet of Things Framework using Wearables [8]

These wearables consisting of galvanic skin response and heart rate variability can be further used for detecting emotions and suicidal intentions as suggested in many of the research studies [9], [11]. Another area that has not been explored with reference to COVID-19 is the identification of viral strains. A recent study from King’s College London [12] suggested that there are six distinct types of strains that can be distinguished and assigned to a cluster of symptoms. The analysis of these strains can also help predict how unwell a patient becomes. Unfortunately, neither our government has focused on analyzing viral strains nor adapted any AI system to cluster a particular patient.

So far, I have only discussed the AI techniques in relation to the COVID pandemic but moving past from this AI can be used in a variety of medical applications such as Diabetic retinopathy, health monitoring through wearable as well as infrastructure-based sensors, visual monitoring of patients, and many more. I can go on with the applications of AI in stock markets, surveillance industry, Education, personal fitness, entertainment, trade analysis, corruption control, anomaly detection in government processes, and so forth, but it will transform this article in a short book of a sort. I think will limit my applications for now to three domains.


[1] Airbnb.com

[2] https://news.psu.edu/story/429727/2016/10/04/research/artificial-intelligence-could-help-farmers-diagnose-crop-diseases

[3] http://www.bluerivertechnology.com/

[4] https://www.eu-startups.com/2019/11/berlin-based-plantix-raises-e6-6-million-in-funding-to-further-improve-its-agricultural-app/

[5] https://www.f6s.com/skysquirreltechnologiesinc

[6] https://www.awhere.com/

[7] Xie, X., Zhong, Z., Zhao, W., Zheng, C., Wang, F. and Liu, J., 2020. Chest CT for typical 2019-nCoV pneumonia: relationship to negative RT-PCR testing. Radiology, p.200343.

[8] Khowaja, S.A., Prabono, A.G., Setiawan, F., Yahya, B.N. and Lee, S.L., 2018. Contextual activity based Healthcare Internet of Things, Services, and People (HIoTSP): An architectural framework for healthcare monitoring using wearable sensors. Computer Networks145, pp.190-206.

[9] Prabono, A.G., Setiawan, F., Khowaja, S.A., Yahya, B.N. and Lee, S.L., 2017. ETL Workflow Design for Analyzing Relationship of Empathy and Social Awareness using Socio-Emotion Data. 한국정보과학회 학술발표논문집, pp.257-259.

[10] Khowajao, S.A., Prabono, A.G., Setiawan, F., Yahya, B.N. and Lee, S.L., 2018. Towards Anomaly Detection System using Wearable Sensors. Korea DataBase Conference, pp. 1-4.

[11] Setiawan, F., Khowaja, S.A., Prabono, A.G., Yahya, B.N. and Lee, S.L., 2018, July. A framework for real time emotion recognition based on human ans using pervasive device. In 2018 IEEE 42nd Annual Computer Software and Applications Conference (COMPSAC) (Vol. 1, pp. 805-806). IEEE.

[12] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/covid-19-study-6-strains-severity-kings-college-london/

Author’s Bio

Dr. Sunder Ali Khowaja received the Ph.D. degree in Industrial and Information Systems Engineering from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea; M.E. degree in Communication Systems and Networks; and B.E. degree in Telecommunication from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Department of Telecommunication Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Pakistan. He had the experience of working with multi-national companies as Network and RF Engineer from 2008 to 2011. His research interests include Data Analytics and Machine Learning for Ambient Intelligence, Image Analysis and Computer Vision applications.

Github page: https://github.com/sander-ali

Publications: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=JG9e8TsAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

Striving for independence

13 Aug



I thought of a story today wanted to share with you all. I thought of a self-centred being, filthy rich sitting on his couch reading newspaper. Suddenly an old man’s voice broke the silence; he said “do you know that tomorrow is Independence Day?” The man replied with yes. The old man said do preparations for decorating the house for Independence Day; we are famous for our patriotism. The man gets into action sends someone to buy the flags and streamers and gathers all his servants for decorating. As the decoration is in continuation he watches over his servants and start beating them up for decorating the house with respect to his expectations. People cross by, seeing the man beating his servants, one or two interrupts but the man told them not to interfere, the servants as well as the territory is mine, you have no right to interfere. Their companions cry as the servants started to bleed by the unethical act of their master. All of a sudden the streamers of Pakistani flag get bleed by the blood of innocent servants while they are decorating it. At the time of supper in evening a well reputed politician pays visit to the residency and sees the blood all over the streamers and the floor and addresses “ We condemn this act and we will make sure that this doesn’t happens in future”. A villager comes forward and says, Sir with due respect last year on the same occasion you took us in confidence that this will not happen again and the politician replied that we are working on new defence policies for the common man and this act continues and the flag continues to bleed….

Now after thinking of this story my question is? Independence Day was for all or only for them who are in power and have the right to do anything they want in society? I think we as a Pakistan have no right to celebrate independence. How can we celebrate it if we have no right to offer our prayers without fear, if we have no right to be a part of another sect, if we have no right to be a common man of this country, but of course we are liable to pay for those who have the right to live freely in this country and those are the mean who are spectators watching their homeland their flag bleed.

Pakistan after its 66th independence is still striving for it but not yet had been successful. Bleed Green

Mr. Khan (Hope for change or just another political player)

3 May

Nowadays everyone is talking about Imran Khan the great which is a hope for the change in Pakistan…I think this is really a bullshit..Like the Party workers of PPP, MQM and PML-N the PTI workers too are dancing on the roads, blocking the road, giving bribe to the Police constables, raising slogans and abusing other politicians…I don’t see any change. Dear Imran Khan you have failed to prove yourself. He says that fanatics are there in ISLAM but most of them are liberals yes ofcourse, we are liberals but how come those fanatics of ISLAM are supporting you Mr. Khan and when you will become the prime minister which you will not InshaALLAH you will slowly and gradually take all minorities out from this country that will be the result of the pact from that fanatics that you have made. HATS OFF to you for your politics and still you say you are the hope for the change 🙂 and ofcourse its only my perception so Its my individual freedom of expression rather than talking on behalf of someone or a group of people

Happy Independence Day

13 Aug

I’m Not Just Bombs, Poverty, Hunger & Corruption…!!!
I’m Jinnah’s Vision.
I’m Edhi’s Philanthropy.
I’m AQ Khan’s Brilliance.
I’m ZAB’s Dare.
I’m Afridi’s Exuberance.
I’m Nusrat Fatah Ali’s & Abida’s Vocal Chords.
I’m Fastest Growing IT Industry.
I’m World’s Top Sport Goods Industry.
I’m In Four Weathers.
I’ve 2nd highest Mountain Peak And 8 Out Of 20 Highest Peaks.
I’m 7th Nuclear Power.
I’m 4th Nation To Build Cruise Missiles.
I’ve Hospitable People.
I’m Epitome Of Resilience.
I’m Among Few Of The Bravest Nations.
Yes I’m Pakistan…..!!!
Spread Optimism, Spread Peace…!!!

My Reply to this

It was not Jinnah’s Vision it was his struggle which was indeed good but my perception for Jinnah is not good at all.
AQK was a thief and will always remain, thanks to him now any Pakistani can’t research the way they used to do in foreign countries
It was a fastest growing IT industry now its a nightmare for any investor to invest
Hospitable people?? do u really think that
Bravest Nation? Really
Spreading Optisim is not like to give fake hopes…Change with in ourselves can bring the change not the hopes which are associated with some people or leaders. As far as all the people who have studied history very well will agree with me on this…need your opinion!! Sorry if anybody is not agree wid my perception. Happy Independence day…which we are still seeking

11 Apr

Right now, I think as a human I have no feelings left, I am so immune that if a tragedy undergoes with my fellow countrymen I forget it so quickly, I even don’t realize that I can also be victimize by the situation which has struck to my fellow countrymen. I am so immune that if somebody gets hurt I even don’t offer a helping hand by the fear of getting robbed or killed. Meet me I am a Pakistani but what made me so immune? What made me think like this? Why we all discriminate each other? The Reason is that our politicians want us to be discriminated, They want us to fear one another, and the effect is that if a person dies in our community, in our relatives or any person related to political party which we think works in our favor, we support the call for strike or so called YOM-E-SOG, and nobody realizes that 150 soldiers, who are trapped in Siachen under bulk of snow are not getting any support by these political parties, why is this so? Because we don’t care who are they, they do not belong to our province and they are not our relatives. What a nation we are and we still dare to say proudly that we are Pakistanis. I recall a line from Shahzad Roy’s Song “Yahan jo bhi ata hai apna hi ullu seedha karta hai” I hope I am not hurting anyone by saying this but the reason to write is we are losing our humanity, and once its lost we will no longer be humans logically.

For Data Communications & Networks Students

5 Mar


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2 Mar


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2 Mar


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1 Mar

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Unconsidered Issues

1 Mar

Before saying anything I just want to tell you that I am not an anti-valentine person, but I was shocked while watching the news channel and the talk shows where the anchors are busy in broadcasting the news report on Valentine’s Day. Though it’s not the matter of only this day but everyday while watching the news channel I think of what’s important in this country and what things are emphasized by the news reporters, I am talking about the news related the education, where on one hand all the major public sector universities in Sindh are locked for education and loss of thousands of students have been observed, in spite of that no news channel is eager to raise the voice on this issue. Local News Channels like KTN, Sindh TV etc sometimes broadcasts the news related the issue of University but I do not see any enforcement in any talk show to resolve these issues.
Every Student, every parent and citizens watch the news channel for the awareness of the news that when the universities will get started for the education but everyday they end up with same conclusion. Every citizen is losing his/her hope from the Universities in Sindh especially.
I am not being nationalist but the boycotts in other Provinces especially Punjab are immediately resolved on urgent basis, but on the contrary a university which is not delivering the education and are on strike since 43 days are being neglected continuously, why is this so? Or we can conclude that education in this province does not matter to our beloved leaders to whom we the public have given mandate. Really it hurts when the students who have recently passed out from these universities appear in interviews and they listen the same statement everywhere that what have you learnt from the universities which are on strike for week of weeks and how could a student justify this statement to the interviewer. I believe that News channels should feel their responsibility and loyalty to this country by showing solidarity to the news which should be considered and need to be resolved on urgent basis, which needs urgent consideration of Government Officials, Politicians and Citizens to give them a ray of hope that this matter is in process of resolving. I don’t know that by writing this I can deliver my message properly but I feel that it’s my duty to at least write on this issue, and give awareness to as much citizens as I can, I hope that this matter will be taken into account in the news channels and this issue will be discussed in the talk shows to come up with a solution cumulatively and to avoid such situations in future which could harm the education as in the current situation.