The rise of the 21st century opened new horizons for the fields of technology, business, computations, decision-making processes, etc. All due to a single phenomenon; artificial intelligence. Pakistan is no different from the world, with artificial intelligence in Pakistan being the rising trend nowadays. You must have heard this term or read it somewhere; such are the reverberations of this impactful change. But if you are utterly blank about ‘Artificial intelligence’, there is no need to feel ashamed about it. As there is always something new to learn for each individual. Life rolls on forward just the same. So, let’s delve into the mysterious world of Artificial intelligence and get to know its meaning and impact on different sectors of Pakistan, along with the challenges faced and concerns raised.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
With artificial intelligence (AI), you don’t get a single fixed definition. Simply put, it is an amalgamation of different terms that includes any component, whether software or hardware. These sub-terms include the knowledge of machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, and much more. Machine intelligence is another name used for artificial intelligence. It is simply a way to build and manage technology that doesn’t depend much on human beings and can make their own decisions autonomously.
Some people mix the term ‘artificial intelligence’ with its subfields: machine learning (ML) and deep learning. This is a wrong practice. For example, although all machine learning is all about AI, not all AI is about machine learning, as it is a really broad term. You should note the differences keenly. Before going toward artificial intelligence in Pakistan, let’s skim through some interesting global success stories brought on by AI as the driving force.
Did You Know?
- Harvard Business Review describes how AI impacted the famous Associated Press. They trained their AI software to automatically write news stories that brought short earnings, resulting in Associated Press producing 12 times more stories. This way, the journalists could spend their precious time writing about more serious topics.
- An AI-powered tool termed ‘Deep Patient’ let’s doctors pinpoint high-risk patients, even before the actual diagnosis of a disease. It was built by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. insideBIGDATA describes the tool as capable of analyzing a patient’s medical history to predict almost 80 diseases up to one year before onset.
Artificial Intelligence in Pakistan
While the world has been galloping toward artificial intelligence by leaps and bounds, Pakistan has just started walking toward it with baby steps. That’s why when we talk of artificial intelligence in Pakistan, the first thought that may pop up in a Pakistani mind can be; do we really have AI usage in Pakistan? There are multiple reasons for Pakistan lagging behind in this field. Take our software industry, for example. They generally rely on academia to recruit new talent, and our educational institutes often still teach outdated concepts and technologies in most undergraduate courses. To go for a big revolutionary AI tech in your industry, the need of the hour is to recruit raw talent and polish it with the latest in-house training programs.
I. Role of Top Universities and Govt. in AI Centers Creation
Despite being late to AI usage, Pakistan is rapidly waking up to this superb phenomenon. The government has actively started promoting the adoption of artificial intelligence in Pakistan. Launching the National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) on the 16th of March 2018 was the first major step toward this endeavor. An outstanding technological initiative consisting of at least nine research labs from six top universities in Pakistan.
Seeing the global upheaval, the top universities of Pakistan have also stepped into AI by launching knowledge centers that solve fundamental AI problems. These centers work with AI-related activities such as game playing, language processing, robotics, voice recognition, expert systems, etc. The youth get a platform to learn and work in AI. Furthermore, such universities publish their work at top-notch international venues and collaborate with companies like Google and Facebook. Some famous names are:
- UET Center of Intelligent Systems & Networks – Peshawar
- NUST National Center of AI – Islamabad
- UET AI Research Lab – Lahore
- The AI Lab at IBA – Karachi
- LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences)
- ITU (Information Technology University) and others.
II. Role of AI in Different Sectors of Pakistan
On the surface, the world associates artificial intelligence only with the control and use of robotics in our daily lives. But AI has deeply affected different sectors of Pakistan, ensuring the achievement of current gains and potential future benefits. No big industry has been left untouched by this rising tide of technological advancement. Let’s see the main sectors thriving positively through artificial intelligence in Pakistan.
AI has been a blessing for Health Sector in Pakistan. The highest accuracy and zero fatigue mark artificial intelligence usage in medical and health fields as the ideal technology. The early detection of diseases improves the overall health system tremendously. Hospitals dealing with life-threatening diseases like cancer mostly use AI technologies for diagnosis and treatment. Some prominent Pakistan-based AI solutions for health care are;
- Safety Connect,
- Patient First,
- Aurat Raaj, and
- Healthcare Matrix.
Another sector with great potential for the application of AI is agriculture. Pakistan is intrinsically an agricultural country, where typically, the general population rely on human analysis to make major agricultural decisions. The use of AI in agriculture is a brand-new concept as yet in Pakistan. AI usage can increase crop yields and reduce waste, optimizing resource utilization. The farmers can easily make significant data-driven decisions and, thus, improve the efficiency of their operations. But there is still a long way to go before we can clearly observe AI’s role in the Pakistani agriculture sector.
A whole new crop of digital marketers, SEOs, and content writers emerging in Pakistan who work with local and global clients. The use of artificial intelligence in Pakistan has touched digital marketing as well. There is a multitude of AI tools a marketer can seek help with to simplify a task, get it completed in seconds, and boost productivity. Following are some of the top trending applications in the digital marketing space.
The finance sector has not been left untouched by the revolution of artificial intelligence in Pakistan. AI has transformed the financial practices in Pakistan for the better. Using AI-based solutions, financial institutes can provide better services to their customers through better fraud detection, risk assessment, and investment recommendations. For example, Telenor Microfinance Bank has implemented an AI-powered chatbot to assist customers with their banking needs.
The defense sector in Pakistan also acknowledges the importance of AI usage for military purposes. During the internationally acclaimed Ideas 2022, a seminar was conducted titled ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defence Market: A Paradigm Shift in Military Strategy and National Security.’ Here, the Federal Minister for Defence talked about the need of the hour to incorporate AI research and development for an improved national defense of the country.
The names of some of the prominent AI Startups in other sectors of Pakistan are:
- Tax Dosti
Challenges Faced by AI in Pakistan
Although artificial intelligence is an internationally in-demand concept to learn and practice, it has its challenges. Especially a developing country like Pakistan has to face multiple factors that limit the expansion and practice of artificial intelligence in Pakistan. Some major challenges to adopting artificial Intelligence include the following:
- Data Shortage
AI models require a sufficient amount of data as artificial Intelligence is purely based on data. In Pakistan, the lack of a proper data infrastructure results in the unavailability of essential data, causing problems in creating perfect AI solutions or work models. A better data collection system is the need of the hour for AI practices to flourish in Pakistan.
2. Lack of Awareness
People and businesses in Pakistan are still unaware of the existence of artificial intelligence in Pakistan. Many don’t even know the word ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and its broader meaning, what it stands for and how this AI interacts practically with real-world problems. The Pakistani population should be educated and informed to raise awareness about the meaning and usefulness of AI in their lives.
Privacy protection always remains a great challenge and concern regarding AI usage. Implementing artificial Intelligence reduces privacy in many cases, which can pose a challenge as people over-conscious about their privacy tend to shun AI-based solutions. This may put a limit on AI usage in Pakistan. Addressing the privacy concerns of the general public and businesses can reduce the negative effect of this AI challenge.
- Lack of skills
Artificial Intelligence demands a particular skill set for its thorough implementation in a country such as Pakistan. While there are many talented IT professionals in Pakistan, there is still a shortage of people with specialized skills in AI, such as machine learning and natural language processing. There is a need to promote the development of new AI specialists in Pakistan.
- Regulatory Framework
The absence of a clear regulatory framework for AI is also a challenge in Pakistan. There is a need for a regulatory framework that outlines ethical and legal guidelines for using AI in various sectors. Such a framework will help ensure that AI is used responsibly and ethically.
Apart from these challenges mentioned above, AI globally faces a multitude of concerns as well. It is not all a bed of roses. If a part of the world’s population is flocking to adopt this new technology, there is a sizable portion of the general masses that are simply observing on the sidelines, waiting for the other shoe to drop. They have grave concerns about the liberties that artificial technology may take with an individual’s personal data and a nation’s data. On a side note, let’s shed some light on the other flip side of the coin by looking at people’s concerns about using artificial intelligence in Pakistan and worldwide.
Concerns about the Use of AI
Some main concerns regarding the use of AI are as below:
1. Global Security Concerns
The use of AI in warfare can bring your worst nightmare to life. Imagine if lethal weapon systems designed and run by artificial intelligence launched themselves without human intervention. The loss of human control over such monstrous weapons of war, like a nuclear bomb, can have terrible repercussions. AI may also be used to hack into military systems, leading to a harmful AI-based arms race between nations globally.
2. Human Employment Concerns
Even though AI is currently trending as a positive advancement, there are valid worries about what this technology will mean for human society in the long run. Take employment. With time, many jobs will be automated as AI technology develops, resulting in human job losses and, thus, unemployment.
3. Ethical Concerns
A 2021 U.S. survey to determine people’s concern levels about the negative impact of AI in their lives shows people ranked business, privacy, and employment opportunity concerns as the leading ones. AI’s potential ethical ramifications do exist. For instance, a biased or discriminatory AI algorithm could produce an unfair outcome. Similarly, Invasion of privacy, tracking of people, and behavior manipulation are additional dangers of working with AI technology.
Future of Artificial Intelligence in Pakistan
Many in Pakistan still lack knowledge or interest in artificial technology, which is a big mistake on their part. This technology will take Pakistan to new heights of success and prosperity if its potential is thoroughly harnessed and cultivated. Ignoring AI in Pakistan will let the world forget about Pakistan in the coming decades. To properly induct AI in Pakistan, the government should promote teaching AI-related subjects during school work and not as an extra after-school activity. Our educational institutes must create AI labs similar to primary and secondary levels of educational institutes having their basic computer, science or art laboratories. Only then the average Pakistani student and individual can hope to venture confidently into the 21st century in any sector of life, knowing they can compete with any competition globally armed with their AI knowledge and practice.