The sixth yearly installment of the National Conference on Information & Communication Technology, also known as ComNet ’14, was held here at Usman Institute of Technology (UIT), Karachi on March 29th, 2014. The IT event was organized by UIT’s Telecom Society (TeleSoc), and was sponsored by a number of well-known brands in Pakistan’s industry, media, and IT business. Over 600 students and industry professionals attended and participated in the event’s activities, making it a huge success.
The event hosted a number of activities, speaker sessions, workshops and competitions, which included Speed Programming, Panel Discussion on Views of Academia and Industry Professionals on Current Academic Approach, Workshop on Networking Technologies and Equipment, National Corporate Conference on the topic of Building Future through Research and Innovative Practices, among others. What follows is summary of the major events throughout the day.
National Corporate Conference
The National Corporate Conference on the subject of Building Future through Research and Innovative Practices focused on the importance of utilizing ICT resources to solve Pakistan’s current problems and avoiding similar issues in the future. Several industry and academic professionals provided insight on the subject. These professionals and topics on which the spoke included:
- Prof. Dr. Athar Mahoob, Dean & Acting Registrar, DHA Suffa University presented on “Dynamic and Survivable Mesh Networking with Smartphones for Off-grid Communications”
- Saad Masud, CEO, Spray Engineering Devices Pvt. Ltd. Presented on “Future Business Leaders: Leading from the Front”
- Engr. Zafar Ul Islam, Lead Technology Strategist for Microsoft, Pakistan presented on “Harnessing the Power of Big Data”
- Prof. Dr. Syed Haider Abbas Musavi, Dean FEST, Indus University, Karachi presented on “4th Generation LTE in Pakistan”
Corporate Conference Speakers (Left to Right): Dr. Athar Mahoob, Mr. Saad Masud, Engr. Zafar Ul Islam, and Prof. Dr. Syed Haider Abbas Musavi
Two main competition events were held during ComNet ’14: Speed Programming and Student Research Papers & Projects Presentation. Top research and academic professionals from UIT undertook the roles of judges and supervisors, with Head of Computer Engineering department, Dr. Ghazanfar Ullah being noteworthy among them.
The Speed Programming competition was attended by six teams from UIT, FAST and Hamdard University.
A total of seven groups affiliated with UIT and Hamdard University participated and presented in the Student Research Papers & Projects competition. The Tank Wall Crawler Robot project won the first prize while the second prize was awarded to SEGWAY: Inexpensive Two-Wheeled Self-Balancing Vehicle. Dr. Ghazanfar Ullah appreciated the efforts of all teams, specially the group from Hamdard University in particular, which presented the only research-based project in the competition, titled Development of Hamming Code for Double Bit Error Detection and Correction by Akram Hussain and Pardeep Kumar.
Workshop and Speaker Sessions
The event’s technical workshop was conducted by Fahad Ahmed Khan, Core Network/IP Engineer for Azyan Telecom, Oman. He guided the audience regarding the technologies and protocols used in LAN and WAN configurations, their planning, designing and implementation strategies, operation of IP Data Networks, Enterprise Network Security, Switching and Routing, and more.
Three Speaker Sessions were also held at the event and the speakers with their chosen presentation topics were:
- Ferhan Syed, Lecturer at UIT: “Why Career Planning is Important?”. The presentation focused on understanding career and the need for career management, and aimed to furnish the students with resources and tools required to successfully devise a long-term career plan for themselves.
- Zeeshan Manzoor, Network Infrastructure Consultant for Silicon Technologies: “Cloud Computing”. The presenter provided some background knowledge regarding Cloud Computing and addressed its potential, resources and the need for experts in this technology.
- Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Director Programs, Evolution IP: “Future Fog: Wipe Out Fears, Uncertainties & Frustration”. The talk focused on providing the attendees, specially students, the resources and guidance necessary to identify their true potential and channeling their energy towards their abilities and capabilities.
Workshop & Sessions Speakers (Left to Right): Mr. Fahad Ahmed Khan, Mr. Ferhan Syed, Mr. Zeeshan Manzoor, and Mr. Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui
Panel Discussion was one of the most engaging and interesting sessions throughout the event. The purpose of the discussion was to suggest the changes that are needed to bridge the gap between industry and academic institutions.
The session called forth some renowned professionals from both industry and academia. The panel representing Academics included Dr. Mohiuddin, Dean (Academics) from PAF-KIET, Karachi; Dr. Usman Shah, Assistant Professor from NED Karachi; and Prof. Dr. Vali Uddin, Dean FEST and Acting Registrar from Hamdard University, Karachi. On the other hand, professionals representing the industry side of the discussion included Mr. Irfan Ahmed, Business Manager for Siemens Pakistan; and Mr. Faisal Shahab, Engineering Division Manager for Lucky Textile Mills.
Panel Speakers (Left to Right): Dr. Mohiuddin, Dr. Usman Shah, Prof. Dr. Vali Uddin, and Mr. Faisal Shahab
The session began with the introduction of the guest speakers and their thoughts on the Industry-Academia relationship. Attendees were allowed to ask questions or give their feedback for the topic and guest speakers also exchanges their views among each other. All speakers agreed that there isn’t much technology-based R&D happening in our country, the current Pakistani curriculum for universities is not on par with the technological advancements taking place in the modern world, and a new curriculum is needed before we can expect to see a change in this premise.
When asked to list their concerns and grievances against the other group, Dr. Mohiuddin spoke on the behalf of Academia and remarked that the industry professionals should implement a scoring and evaluation system that looks past the GPA of a student, because current GPA scoring system cannot fully evaluate the aptitude of any individual. To this, Mr. Faisal Shahab and Mr. Irfan Ahmed both responded that their respective firms do try to evaluate the applicants beyond their grades but since there are exceedingly numerous applicants for every job listing, they have to cut down the number based on some criteria before calling the individuals for an interview, and currently that criteria is, for better or worse, the GPA itself.
Dr. Vali Uddin from Hamdard University commented that industry should play their part by offering the fresh graduates an opportunity to prove themselves, and the industries should consult technology universities of Pakistan instead of going to foreign resources for the solution of problems they face in technical and industrial divisions. He also suggested that the industry should render financial and technical support and grants to universities in order to provide for the technological advancements at institutes.
Mr. Irfan Ahmed shared his university life experiences in Germany with the audience and insisted that the Pakistani universities should play their part in R&D activities. He noted that a grant of €1 million was provided to LUMS a few years ago for R&D activities but there is still no output to be seen from their end. He also stressed on the importance of law and order situation in the country and remarked that people are sending their children to foreign universities and industries because of the security concerns and Pakistan is not considered a safe country anymore.
Mr. Usman Shah from NED assured the audience and industry representatives that Pakistani students are talented and can tackle any problem put in front of them. He recounted an event from 2001 where his university students were asked by Gul Ahmed textile mills’ engineering division to repair a bi-phase inverter control card because foreign assistance from Swiss engineers was costing the firm too much in the resolution of problem. He pointed out that NED students successfully solved the problem and Gul Ahmed industries hired those engineers immediately and also set up an R&D division for their firm. He also marked the importance of tech incubation and internship programs for students.
The panel unanimously agreed at the end of the discussion that an overhaul of the industrial and academic policies is needed if we expect to see Pakistan among the developed nations. A good amount of time, preferably a semester, should be made mandatory for the students to be spent at an industrial firm under the mentorship of registered engineers in order to hone their skills and furnish them with hands-on experience. Students should be educated about entrepreneurship and incubation programs from the very start and government should allocate higher amount of resources for the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Moreover, Mr. Irfan advised the students to support their alma maters once they become self-sufficient.
The event concluded around half-past five in the evening after souvenirs and shields were presented to the panel speakers and event organizers. ComNet ’14 was a spectacular event overall that had something to offer according to everyone’s taste. We, as attendees and participants, enjoyed the hospitality of the institute, workshops and sessions and most of all, the Panel Discussion, and look forward to the attending the seventh episode of the event next year as well!