The 2nd meeting of COMSATS’ International Thematic Research Group (ITRG) on ‘Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)’ was held on 16th December 2014, at the Group’s Lead Centre, the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), Islamabad, Pakistan. The event was held in conjunction with the International Workshop on ‘Applications of ICTs in Education, Healthcare and Agriculture’ (15-16 December 2014, Islamabad, Pakistan).
The inaugural session of the ITRG meeting was graced with the presence of Dr. Imtinan Elahi Qureshi, Executive Director COMSATS, who formally opened the meeting. The Group Leader, Prof. Dr. Sajjad Mohsin, Dean, Faculty of Information Sciences and Technology (FIST), CIIT, chaired the meeting, which was attended by fifteen participants, representing the following eight organizations: Industrial Research and Consultancy Centre (IRCC), Sudan; Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Bangladesh; Iranian Research Organization for Science & Technology (IROST), Iran; Royal Scientific Society (RSS), Jordan; Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization (TIRDO), Tanzania; National Research Centre (NRC), Egypt; University Alioune, Senegal; and CIIT, Pakistan. Moreover, Mr. Tajammul Hussain, Advisor (Programmes) and Mr. Farhan Ansari, Sr. Assistant Director (Programmes), represented COMSATS Headquarters as programme coordinators.
In his inaugural address, Dr. Qureshi considered the joint research project, entitled ‘e-Solutions for Community using Low-Cost Connectivity’, extremely important for the developing countries, as it is focused at addressing some of their most fundamental challenges in health, education and agriculture sectors. The ICT-based solutions delivered through long-distance Wi-Fi networks can meet the needs of the rural communities in a highly cost effective manner. He informed that the uniqueness of the COMSATS’ ITRG programme lies in its membership of research scientists belonging to various developing countries working at their home institutions, complementing the traditional method of conducting joint research. Touching upon various aspects of the Group collaboration, he urged the participants to create knowledge networks and commit themselves for jointly working out cost-effective solutions addressing the common problems of the developing world, which he believed is the true spirit of South-South cooperation. Noting how some small start-ups based on personal initiatives have expanded so hugely across the globe, he opined that scientists of the developing countries are capable of jointly achieving much more than individual entrepreneurs. Dr. Qureshi also shed light on the progress made by other COMSATS’ ITRGs currently operational on ‘Natural Products Sciences’ (led by ICCBS-Pakistan), ‘Climate Change and Environmental Protection’ (led by ICCES-China) and ‘Mathematical Modeling’ (led by NMC-Nigeria). As a success story, he noted that the ITRG on ‘Climate Change and Environmental Protection’ has been successful in securing the funding of one million Chinese Yuan from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, with support of COMSATS Headquarters. He hoped that the research project being executed by the ITRG on ICTs would help address some of the problems of the developing world populations.
Prof. Sajjad Mohsin shared the progress made by the Group since its launching in 2011. He particularly noted the progress made in terms of the project components related to setting up Wi-Fi connectivity and developing e-Health solutions. He informed that the Group has completed the prototype deployment of Wi-Fi connectivity across the targeted region in Pakistan through stations installed at an aerial distance of 2.2 km. He stated that such cost-effective Wi-Fi connectivity solution can be replicated in the respective countries of the collaborating institutions. He also expressed his desire to include suitable officials of COMSATS Internet Services (CIS) in this project component. It was further informed that the e-Health component of the project, which is related to curing brain tumor in children through image/psychological therapy using video games has also been completed, and is gaining international recognition. Prof. Mohsin also gave a brief orientation of the ITRG on ICTs, its objectives and research goals to the new members of the Group, and urged them to actively participate in this international activity.
During the discussion session, the participants of the meeting agreed to add a new component to the joint research project relating to image-based scientific and analytical evaluation of water, which was earlier proposed by Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Principal Research Officer, CIIT. Dr. Iqbal also gave a brief demonstration of this research idea. Subsequent to detailed deliberations, the Group members distributed different research tasks among themselves with regard to the execution of the afore-mentioned project component, based on their expertise and research experiences. It was agreed that a formal proposal, along with an action plan, timeline, milestones, division of labour, etc., would be finalized by the Group Leader in consultation with the members. The Group also considered taking up another project activity in future related to developing Industrial Mobile-Health Service Platform, which was proposed by Dr. Shervin Amiri, Associate Professor, Head of Electrical and Information Institute, IROST, Iran.
While discussing the financial aspects of the research project, Mr. Tajammul Hussain, Advisor (Programmes), COMSATS Headquarters, informed that COMSATS’ main role with regard to facilitating the Group activities pertains to coordination, advocacy and providing mobility fund to the Group members. He informed that although COMSATS Headquarters financially supports mobility of Group members for the purpose of joint research activities, the funding for the execution of the research project is to be acquired from the respective governments of the collaborating countries and/or international donor agencies. He also encouraged the Group members to make efforts to secure funding for their research assignments from their respective organizations and governments. He informed that COMSATS and the Lead Centre will advocate such requests of research funding made by the Group members to their respective governments or international donor agencies.
It was agreed that the Group members will utilize the latest ICT tools, such as group e-mail, community portal/blog, Viber group, etc., for improving the communication among themselves. The Group members also pledged to communicate with each other on fortnightly basis, and to submit progress reports to the Group Leader on monthly basis. The understanding reached during the meeting will be later formalized through signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.
The meeting concluded with a resolve to direct the efforts of COMSATS’ International Thematic Research Group towards benefiting the masses in the developing countries using modern ICTs.