On the night of 15th of October, I felt so proud to be a Pakistani, which is now a rare thing, in Kula Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) where Pakistan IT companies clinched seven silver APICTA-2010 Awards and Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) making history by winning three out of them in the key categories of Security, e-Government and Communication applications. This clearly shows the innovative and creative minds of our IT gurus, entrepreneurs and executives. The best products from the sixteen countries in sixteen categories were competing for the gold and silver positions. The award decisions were made based on the uniqueness of the products, their business potential and their utility in the economies of the alliance countries.

Pakistan IT companies have done wonders and the credit goes to respective teams. The engineers and scientists in all these companies have made all of us proud to be Pakistanis. Please keep up the good work, you are producing innovations that are being celebrated and appreciated in the entire Asia Pacific region. Your work does not only have great intellectual value but also business potential.

Here is a small narration of the events I wrote while I was flying back to Pakistan.

It was the morning of 15th Oct, I, Zaheer and Hammad (the CARE team members) were visiting Putrajaya, a Malaysian city that hosts the federal government offices including the office of the Prime Minster. The city is newly built and offers an exotic sky line with dominant presence of domes of two elegant mosques that shows Muslims’ grace, significance and power in the country. Zaheer’s family friend Dr Amir (who teaches in a university in Malaysia) and his family took us around. It was Friday and we offered our prayers in one of these mosques and then rushed back to Kula Lumpur, where Asia Pacific Information and Communication Technology Alliance (APICTA), an alliance of sixteen countries, was holding its 10th ICT awards and we were representing Pakistan in four categories. Some of the finest countries in technology constitute the Asia Pacific Alliance; these include Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan. There were a total of sixteen categories and in each category each country was represented by the winner of its national ICT award.  CARE earlier made history by winning P@SHA awards in four key categories where one award in student’s category was also claimed by students of CASE, so a total of five awards.

We were back in Kula Lumpur by 3 pm where the awards were scheduled at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. To make sure that I know the exact timings I, for the very first time, looked at the invitation card and got the first shock of the day reading that the chief guest at the event was the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and Dr. Mahatar Mohammad would be receiving first APICTA Life Time achievement award.

I could hardly believe that ICT would be given its due recognition and importance in a Muslim country.  The P@SHA Awards, one the most prominent events in ICT in Pakistan, lacks the presence of any key government official. Our print media did not report on the Awards, although the next day there were news of primary school’s award ceremonies and big pictures of fun fairs at a local university.  It was only the Dawn news channel that repeatedly broadcasted the news on the event.

While I was hurriedly preparing to participate in the ceremony, the scenes and events of past few weeks started to scroll off my memory. Mr. Zia Imran, chairman PSEB (Pakistan Software Export Board) stressing Dr. Farrukh to send our nominations for P@SHA ICT Awards and Ms Jehan Ara (President, P@SHA) sending mass emails on pakgrid inviting all ICT ventures in Pakistan to participate in the awards. Dr. Farrukh kept reminding me on daily basis to respond, I asked Shaista to hunt the managers of different projects, as only two days were left, and get them to fill the nomination forms.  The managers, as they always are, up to their nose in work and commitments, managed to fill the forms and we submitted nominations in four categories in the last hour of the last day. The nominations came to us as just another fire fighting episode. And to our utmost pleasant surprise, I received an email from Jehan Ara that we had made history and managed to sweep the awards. We won in all four categories and one group of CASE students also won, so a total of five awards. The award in the R&D category was for a joint project of CARE, CASE, and College of E&ME funded by the National ICT R&D Fund. The rest of the three categories were communication, security and e-government. We were told that the same projects had also been nominated for APICTA award in Malaysia. We applied for visas, not sure till last day if we would be going. Eventually, three of us could manage to board the flight to Kula Lumpur and two were left behind still waiting for their visas to be processed.

We landed on 13th and the next day we were to present our projects to a panel of judges in two categories. We spent all night preparing and giving last touches to the presentation, making people back in our office in Pakistan to also work on the presentation. With team work, we were able to  put the presentation together.  Our first presentation was in the category of e-government. We made an excellent pitch, as was evident from judges’ response. Initially there was disbelief that turned into astonishment and finally into recognition and appreciation of the innovations we created in Pakistan. The head judge was an Australian lady though I knew in my heart that it would be hard for the judges to counter their natural bias and overcome the prejudice to award us the gold but they could not deny us the silver. Our next presentation was in two hours in the R&D category. This judge from Hong Kong remained in the state of disbelief and could never come out. He doubted that our device can do one million matches per second. We knew, we have lost this category as he created doubts in the minds of other judges as well. Dejected by the comments, we came back to our rooms, slept for a while and then were up to prepare for next day. Two presentations, the first one in Security application, we again made an excellent pitch, answered all questions, though the proceedings again started from disbelief to appreciation and commendation. The judges took my visiting cards and we wrongly perceived that we had clinched the gold. The head judge was again an Australian lady and there was an Australian company also presetting their product just before us. Our last presentation was in an hour and in the Communication Systems category. Out performance in this category was flawless and immaculate, and left the judges shaking their heads in appreciation. We were wrongly sure that the gold was ours.

It took me some time to come back to reality, and enjoy the next event. The appearance of Dr Mohatir Muhammad and the Prime Minister of Malaysia increased the significance of the awards. The show was ‘on’ Oscar-style, hosted by two of the most renowned celebrities of Malaysia, I was told by the Malaysian sitting next to me. To my surprise, the front lines were filled with primary school kids and so we were in the back lines. The compere told the kids that you were brought here to be inspired and do better than what all these people have done. This indeed reflects the importance Malaysia gives to ICT. The first award was in the category of security. Once the announcer said and “the winner is”, Zaheer told me “Sir, let us get ready”, but to our disappointment the gold was bestowed to the Australian, and we were dejected. But the next announcement of silver was for us. This also helped us in lowering our expectations. We were happy to have won three awards, and the rest of the Pakistani delegation won four more, so a total of seven awards for Pakistan. This indeed is an immaculate performance by the Pakistani IT industry, in general, and CARE in particular. The credit indeed goes to all the developers and managers of in these companies. Keep up the good work, it made us proud as a Pakistani among so many people, professionals and IT companies present at the scene. The winners were:

Security Application – Silver, Merit
Product: 10G VoIP Monitoring Solution
Center for Advanced Research in Engineering

e-Health Application – Silver, Merit
Product: CureMD
Cure MD Pvt Ltd

E-Inclusion and E-Community – Silver, Merit
Product: Automated Business Machines
Aerocar Transaction Machines

E-Inclusion and E-Community Application – Silver, Merit
Product: Touch XS
Solo Tech

Financial Industry Applications – Silver, Merit
Product: Rendezvous 4.0
Avanza Solutions

Communications – Silver, Merit
Product: Software Defined Radio
Center for Advanced Research in Engineering

E-Government – Silver, Merit
Product: CARE Digital Radio Surveillance Equipment
Center for Advanced Research in Engineering

To my pleasant surprise, I saw all the Pakistani participants being very helpful, and there was harmony and affections among them. P@SHA chairperson, Jehan Ara ably lead the delegates. I had seen her team working day and night with passion and conviction. We need this type of leadership in the country as well.

Dr. Shoab A. KhanDr. Shoab A. Khan has a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He is a founding member of Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering (CASE) and CEO of Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE). CASE is a primer engineering institution and runs the largest post graduate engineering program in the country, whereas CARE has risen to be one of the most profound high technology engineering organizations in Pakistan.

Dr. Khan is actively involved in research and development and has 5 awarded US patents and 160+ international publications. His book on digital design is in publishing by John Willey & Sons.  He has been awarded Tamgh-e-Imtiaz, National Education Award (2001), and NCR National Excellence Award in the category of IT Education.

7 Responses to “Seven Silver Awards in a Field that Must Matter to Pakistan”

  1. Great! Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous says:

    While I have utmost regard for Dr. Shoab and I am really proud of these achievements, I am deeply saddened that even our brightest scientifically inclined minds cannot come to grips with our own shortcomings and instead choose to succumb to proof-less conspiracy theories to rationalize any shortcomings.

    In his article if Dr. Shoab had chosen to highlight the loss of a particular gold medal owing to some judging bias while appreciating the gold medal winners in other categories, it might have been a little more palatable.

    Instead assigning each gold medal lost to either incompetent judges who could not understand the presentation or downright corrupt judges who unfairly preferred products/presentations from their native countries, Dr. Shoab has chosen to strengthen our reliance on the conspiracy theory epidemic and discouraged any future contenders from aiming for the top prizes rather than urging his own team and others who look up to him to work harder and focus their efforts on plugging any shortcomings from this time around.

  3. Syed says:

    I fully agree with the comments from ‘Anon’.

    Usually Pakistani masses have this perception of self-victimhood, crusading against an all-conspiring world hell bent on destroying them.

    Sadly, even Dr. Shoaib is not immune to this.

    Congrats to all the teams !!

  4. Great! Congratulations to all participants and hard working guys. Its very hard to change someone’s perception about your self and your work when you are being made part of a false community. This makes it difficult and sometimes discouraging for hard working people to come forward and present themselves in true manner. I found about 80% of University students change their mind while presentations depending on mood of the judge or his/her looks.

  5. Dr Shoab A Khan says:

    Dear readers of my article in STEP

    I wrote this article while I was flying back to Pakistan. I have narrated it the way I felt at that time once the emotions were high. Later, I had discussion with one of the Pakistani judges and he explained me the process. That sounds fair to the participants. Through this response I acknowledge and request the readers to ignore my rhetoric on the judges. Next time, Insha Allah, Pakistani representatives will strive for the gold.

    Regards
    Dr Shoab Khan

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dr Shoab,

    Thank you for your acknowledgement of the rhetoric and for being so forthcoming about it. This is indeed very encouraging.

    Many of us including myself look up to you and I hope/pray that your team and other Pakistani representative would grow from this experience and clinch gold medals for us next year.

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