The inauguration of the National Center in Big Data and Cloud Computing took place at LUMS on May 4, 2018. The ceremony was attended by noted personalities from the educational and development sectors of Pakistan. The PKR 1.5 Billion Center will be housed at LUMS and will comprise of 12 'Affiliated' Labs at 11 Universities around the country including LUMS, EME College, PNEC, UETL, UETP, ITU, SZABIST, FAST-NU, CECOS, Ziauddin University and UAF and employ 50 of the country's leading Analytics and Cloud researchers.
The guests at the ceremony were welcomed by Dr. Naveed Arshad, Interim Director, NCBC and Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, LUMS. He said that Pakistan has a huge population under 30 years of age and that provides an excellent pool of Human Resource that can be tapped into to make Pakistan leapfrog to prosperity. He said that data is gold in this age and facilities such as this lab will provide the means to process and analyse the data to solve world problems.
He shared that the Center came about after the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan launched a competition and called out to all the research groups working in Pakistani Universities in the field of Big Data and Computing. They were invited through EOI and had to go through a rigorous process of selection including three rounds of competition. "The NCBC will be mainly focused on R&D and human resource development in the specialised field of Big Data and Cloud Computing. The role of Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing is growing in many businesses and applications become extremely critical to economic growth and national competitiveness. The idea is to provide a platform for promoting a culture of Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing industry and related businesses," explained Dr. Arshad.
Present at the launch event were Abdul Razak Dawood, Rector LUMS; Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, Vice Chancellor, LUMS; Shahid Hussain, Member of the Board of Trustees of LUMS; Dr. Athar Osama, Member Science and Technology Planning Commission; Dr. Arshad Ali, Executive Director, HEC and Federal Minister Mr. Ahsan Iqbal.
Dr. Naqvi welcomed the guests and congratulated Dr. Naveed Arshad and his team. He said, “Our entire wealth is our youth. We are grateful to the government for recognising the potential LUMS possesses to provide the right environment and the opportunities to them to explore their potential.”
Mr. Shahid Hussain shared the latest developments at LUMS. He told the audience about the fifth school at LUMS, the School of Education, which has been established to groom individuals who can develop educational policy and leadership in the country. He also shared that LUMS plans to introduce two new programmes at LUMS, the Chemical Engineering programme and a Civil Engineering and Environment programme.
Dr. Athar Osama spoke about the importance of setting up such centers and how they can transform the culture of research in Pakistan. He said that the Centers will share resources and data, and will encourage practical research, relevant to Pakistan, which will help solve pertinent problems. “With NCBC, not only will we have partner labs across Pakistan working in diverse fields of medicine, agriculture, energy, social work and so on but we will also provide High Performance Computing Facility at four locations spread throughout the country. These facilities will not only be open to partner labs but to other researchers in big data and cloud computing,” said Dr. Osama.
Dr. Osama further elaborated that in addition to the four HPC facilities, NCBC will also create an open data portal. “Selected dataset will be available on the portal from a wide range of public, semi-public and possibly private entities. Availability of such datasets will enable anybody to analyse the data and suggest innovative solutions,” he said.
Addressing the gathering, Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that this was an auspicious day for Pakistan marked by a realisation of a dream, which would take Pakistan forward towards positioning itself as a knowledge economy in which prosperity will one day be driven by data which is the "new oil". He also congratulated the LUMS management for producing graduates, who he discovered through Linkedin, are placed in renowned PhD programmes across the world and many hold important positions at reputable oranisations.
At the Center, the following selected labs will be working in a diverse range of fields including Agriculture, Medicine, Health, Energy, Internet of things, Astronomy and others:
Digital Pakistan Lab – CEME, NUST, Rawalpindi; Distributed Computing Lab – LUMS; Language Engineering Lab – UET Lahore; Exascale Open Data Lab – NED UET, Karachi; Precision Medicine Lab – CECOS (Peshawar) & FAST NU (Islamabad); Video Surveillance Lab – PNEC-NUST (Karachi) & FAST NU (Karachi); Sustainable Energy Informatics Lab – LUMS; Predictive Analytics Lab – SZABIST (Karachi & Islamabad); Precision Agriculture and Analytics Lab – UAF (Faisalabad); Crime Investigation and Prevention Lab – ITU (Lahore); Data Acquisition, Processing & Predictive Analytics – Ziauddin University (Karachi) and Data Analytics Lab – UET Peshawar.