Urgent Need for Localized AI Development in Pakistan

Sun May 26 2024
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KARACHI: In response to an emailed query, ByeongJo Kong, Digital Technology Specialist (Data Analytics & Big Data) at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), highlighted the pressing concern of Pakistan’s increasing reliance on foreign AI solutions.

He emphasized that this dependency not only incurs higher costs but also poses potential economic and security vulnerabilities by placing critical infrastructure under foreign control.

Fatima Yasmin, Vice-President for Sectors and Themes of the Asian Development Bank, stressed the importance of building AI tailored to Pakistan’s specific needs. She warned that the current trend of adopting foreign AI solutions might widen the gap between countries, leaving Pakistan lagging behind its peers in AI adoption.

India presents a noteworthy example of successful AI integration. In Tamil Nadu, AI surveillance systems prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks by alerting authorities when elephants approach. Similarly, Kissan GPT, a chatbot assisting farmers regardless of literacy levels, demonstrates AI’s diverse applications.

Ozzeir Khan, Director of Digital Innovation and Architecture at ADB, noted India’s emergence as a major AI producer and consumer. He suggested Pakistan could replicate India’s successful AI initiatives to address its own challenges effectively.

In the Philippines, OLAM International utilizes AI to streamline rice processing, showcasing AI’s potential to address agricultural challenges similar to Pakistan’s.

Despite the potential benefits, Pakistan’s lack of AI investments and educational programs puts it at a disadvantage. Mr. Kong emphasized the importance of robust AI strategies in boosting economic growth and productivity. He warned that without such initiatives, Pakistan faces a brain drain, further impeding its technological advancement.

To bridge this gap, Pakistan must integrate AI strategies into its national development plans. However, Mr. Kong cautioned against adopting foreign AI solutions without customization. Such solutions may not address Pakistan’s linguistic, cultural, and infrastructural nuances, leading to inefficiencies and biases.

Furthermore, importing AI systems not designed for local laws and norms poses significant risks, particularly concerning data privacy and security. This challenge extends to the agriculture sector, where AI solutions must align with Pakistan’s unique climate and crop types to avoid inaccurate predictions and economic losses.

To mitigate these risks, Pakistan should invest in local AI research, establish partnerships, and create a national AI strategy. By doing so, Pakistan can ensure AI technologies serve local needs while empowering domestic capacity.

As India surges ahead in AI development, Pakistan must urgently prioritize localized AI development to address its challenges effectively. Without a national framework and strategy for AI, Pakistan risks missing out on opportunities and jeopardizing its economic and societal progress.

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