IDEAS2022 seminar stresses pragmatic tech-oriented research to make Pakistan a global AI hub

The unconstrained potential in AI progress demands Pakistan to keep abreast with the advancements in AI and match its pace through research, an imperative for making Pakistan a global hub of AI, data science, Internet of Things (IoT), and others. In this regard, an essential role is played by universities, which serves as key institutions of research, creativity, collaboration, and combining expertise.

This was discussed during the second day of the seminar ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defence Market; A Paradigm Shift in Military Strategy and National Security’, which was organized at Expo Centre, Karachi, on November 16, 2022, as part of IDEAS 2022, in collaboration between Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad, and Defence Export Promotion Organization (DEPO).

The forum was graced as chief guest by Muhammad Israr Tareen, Federal Minister for Defence Production. Chairman IPS Khalid Rahman delivered the introductory remarks while Dr Yasar Ayaz, CPD/chairman at National Center of Artificial Intelligence (NCAI), moderated the seminar. The speakers included Lt Colonel Dr Ghulam Murtaza, College of EME, NUST, Dr Muhammad Tayab Ali, NCAI, NUST, Major Aon Safdar, College of EME, NUST, Dr Waleed Bin Shahid, MCS, NUST, Lt Colonel Usman Zia, MCS, NUST, and Sqn Ldr Javeria Farooq, CAE, NUST. The session was followed by a very thought-provoking discussion by a highly proficient panel.

Acknowledging Pakistan’s progress in the industrial and defense sectors driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), Tareen stated that the country can become a global hub for AI, data science, cloud-native computing, edge computing, blockchain, augmented reality, and internet of things (IoT) by reshaping and revolutionizing education, businesses, and research through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and AI-driven applications.

While highlighting the role of academia, research scholars, and data-savvy individuals in development, he emphasized that the country’s talented youth should be provided opportunities in the field of AI and Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) through initiatives like the Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence and Computing (PIAIC).

Apart from social, political, and economic changes, advanced technologies, 5G, and AI have also changed the whole dynamics of contemporary warfare, battlefields, tactics, and strategies, he underscored. With such strategic shifts, the concept of security has widened beyond conventional terms and rudimentary procedures to include sophisticated mechanisms and technology-driven procedures. These pose new challenges to the states, he added.

Accentuating the role of human intellect and research in the process of development, Khalid Rahman highlighted that humans through research have been able to maximize knowledge, store it, make it retrievable, process it as quickly as possible, and then analyze and act upon it. 

In this regard, universities have served as the key platforms to set the pace for humanity in the key areas of society, culture, economics, and the environment and, more particularly, in the field of AI, which reflects in every other field of life.

The progress in AI would not stop and no country should stay behind in acing the AI development, he emphasized. The role in AI progress is essentially played by universities, where research, creativity, and collaboration, enabled by AI learning environment, can not only capitalize on the potentials of AI but also deal with the challenges of phenomenon by combining expertise, insights, and multiple lenses.

To meet the new complex security challenges of the 21st century, the speakers presented their research papers, ideas, and findings on different AI-driven applications and processes, upon which depend the future international security dynamics.

Dr Ghulam Murtaza presented his study on automated fault detection/isolation of artillery and tank gun barrels using deep learning and advocated for robotic inspections as a cheap and more accurate alternative to manual examination.

Dr Tayab Ali highlighted the threats of the dissemination of misinformation and misrepresentation and the need to devise AI-powered tools and mechanisms, such as smart media monitoring and analytics system, to enhance the defense capabilities and face the challenges of the 5th generation warfare.

Major Aon Safdar showed how accurate real-time automatic target detection and recognition (ATR) from thermal infrared imagery is a challenging computer vision task and proposed a model called YOLOatr, a modified anchor-based single-stage detector, to attain up to 99.6% ATR performance.

While presenting his research, Dr. Waleed Bin Shahid pointed out the surge in web application attacks, calling for deep learning based-approaches and frameworks. He also presented an AI-based attack detection framework based on Static Application Security Testing Technique (SAST) output.

Usman Zia highlighted the advantages of transforming remote sensing images to textual descriptions. He proposed a model that can enhance information exchange between the frontline and command center and effectiveness in remote sensing image retrieval (RSIR) and image analysis.

Pointing out the performance degradation of object detectors caused by unseen data, Javeria Farooq proposed a two-step approach to improve the generalization of the domain randomization model for low-resolution 2D datasets for the detection of foreign object debris. Retraining the model improved detection accuracy to 92%, she highlighted. 



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