Monday, August 18, 2014

Promoting Innovation Culture in Pakistan

Culture of innovation has enabled huge productivity increases and major improvements in peoples' living standards since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 18th century. It has resulted in a monumental power shift from the East to the West and led to the European colonization of the rest of the world.

Countries in the East have finally begun to understand the value of innovation since achieving independence which came after a couple of centuries of subjugation by European powers.


Efforts to promote innovation in Pakistan are being spearheaded by several different groups including DICE Foundation and Pakistan Innovation Foundation.  Both DICE and PIF focus almost entirely on higher education institutions.

Before assessing the situation and making recommendations on promoting innovation in Pakistan, it's important to understand the history of innovation by studying the examples of major innovations since the industrial revolution.

James Watt:

James Watt (1736-1819) is credited with the innovation of the steam engine which is believed to have enabled the Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Watt only had high school education. He never studied at a college or a university. His invention enabled a wide range of manufacturing machinery to be powered.  His steam engines could be sited anywhere that water and coal or wood fuel could be obtained and provided up to 10,000 horsepower to run large factories. It could also be applied to vehicles such as traction engines and the railway locomotives. The stationary steam engine was a key component of the Industrial Revolution, allowing factories to locate where water power was unavailable.

Thomas Edison:

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), the man who invented the light bulb, was probably the most prolific inventor since the Industrial Revolution. He had no formal education. He was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to come up with many devices and was awarded over 1000 patents by the U.S. Patent Office. His innovations were transformational in their impact: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures, all established major new industries world-wide. Edison's inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.

Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) invented Apple personal computer. Jobs revolutionized several industries from computing and personal electronics to publishing and entertainment. Jobs, a highly prolific innovator, attended college briefly but did not complete college education. Jobs, too, was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to create things.

These examples clearly establish that some of the most prolific innovators have been people who had little or no college education. It is therefore not wise to limit promotion of innovation to just the college level.

In fact, it is much more important to start promoting innovation during early years in primary and secondary schools. It can be done through inquiry-based learning and provision of tools and training at the K-12 school level. Some examples are as follows:

Inquiry-based Learning:

Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.  Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) are beginning to promote inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age in Pakistan. These skills are essential to prepare Pakistani youngsters to be capable of facing the challenges of living in a highly competitive world in which the wealth of nations is defined in terms of human capital and innovation.

Maker Movement:

The Maker Movement is a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe. It has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.

Maker movement is helping spawn facilities in many different cities around the world. These places have a wide range of both hardware and software tools and classes available to help people to create and "make" things with their own hands.

The only possible example of "makerspace" that comes close in Pakistan is Robotics Lab that was launched in 2011 in Karachi. It was founded by two friends Afaque Ahmed and Yasin Altaf who had previously worked in Silicon Valley. They bought a 3D printer for the lab as a tool to help children learn science. The founding duo is now looking for ways to expand its audience.“Our goal is to push this science lab to TCF schools, a nationwide school network covering about 150,000 underprivileged students,” says Ahmed. The project, however, is currently pending because of funding constraints. “We have asked them to find some big donor for this purpose. Currently, we train these children only through field trips to our labs.”

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

The key to innovation is not necessarily advanced education and training in a certain field. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Major innovations have often come from people working in unrelated fields. Recent examples of such innovations from people of South Asian origin include Zia Chisti's Invisalign and Salman Khan's Khan Academy. Both Zia and Salman came from investment banking background before they revolutionized the fields of orthodontics and education.

Summary: 

Encouragement of the culture of innovation should begin during children's formative years in primary and secondary schools. Innovation requires free out-of-the-box thinking. History tells us that some of the biggest innovators were tinkerers with little or no formal education in the fields of their biggest and most transformative innovations. Groups and foundations promoting innovation in Pakistan need to increase their outreach to the school kids. As a start, they can expand inquiry-based learning and build more makerspaces like Karachi's Robotics Lab in partnership with private industries and foundations in major cities.

Here's a video of my friend Ali H. Cemendtaur's visit to Karachi Robotics Lab:

http://vimeo.com/58856985


Visiting Robotics Labs, Private Limited in Karachi, Pakistan from Ali Cemendtaur on Vimeo.
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Industrial Revolution Power Shift

Steve Jobs' Syrian Father

Inquiry-Based Learning in Pakistan

3D Printing in Pakistan

Zia Chishti's Innovation in Orthodontics

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors


13 comments:

Shams said...

Good reporting, both by you and my friend Ali.

Mike Z. said...

This is the power of a writer, to simply put the information on a “Portal” everyone sees it, and it blooms from there on. My two friends who I love dearly, has write/work on this matter, I see it and draw inspiration from it. Isn’t that Khurshid Qureshi's DICE is all about, besides the activism part. Riaz Haq Sahib and Cemendtaur, two powerful writers will find synergy with Dice work, I think all of you three need to talk to each other, to find contributor/leadership position with DICE.

Moin said...

This is one of your best posts. Very nicely done.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that we teach our children to excel in science as a subject but not as a way of thinking. When the child asks us difficult questions that are true in science but are not socially acceptable, we shun them. Science is not just physics, chemistry, biology. It is life, thoughts and culture. We need to inculcate this at home more than in schools. I find the present educationaly system produces PHD's who are not real inventors and scientists. on the contrary, uneducated people seem to have the zeal to think scientifically. This is a humanitarian cause and we should support our children to cultivate scientific thought process and question the unquestionable. This is more important that giving them costly food, luxurious living etc

Anonymous said...

Islamabad, April 4, 2012: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and National Institute of Science & Technical Institute (NISTE) organized a closing seminar in a local hotel here at Islamabad for its joint venture project for "Promotion of Student Centered and Inquiry Based Science Education" in Pakistan.

The key concept of the general science curriculum 2006 is Student Centered and Inquiry Based (SCIB) Science Education learning. However, most of teachers are unfamiliar with the SCIB concept and do not have much opportunities to equip themselves with new teaching methods in line with the new curriculum 2006.

To cope with this challenge, the Government of Pakistan, in line with the said curriculum for Grades 4th to 8th requested the Government of Japan for provision of technical expertise for SCIB. Thus, a "Student Centered and Inquiry Based Science Education Project" with a mandate to develop and streamline lesson plans for teachers, train them and encourage them to share and implement the learned skill back in their institutions was unfolded by JICA for entire country.

JICA's SCIB venture kicked off in May 2009 and destined to last for 3 years until April 2012, has developed lesson plans, trained 195 numbers of master trainers from the length and breadth of Pakistan. The master trainers in return are supposed to devolve and share their skills with their fellow teachers in their schools. In the federal capital, the beneficiary master trainers have trained 197 teachers while more training are still on their future charts. The final seminar highlighted future SCIB implementation plan for Islamabad and all four provinces, which is expected to be driven by NISTE, Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) provincial and area education departments and master trainers trained in this project.

http://www.jica.go.jp/pakistan/english/office/topics/press120404.html

Riaz Haq said...

SDF is using the hands-on LAMAP approach to enhance student learning in science subjects.

LAMAP (La Main a La Pate) is a French learning methodology, the word literally translating to ‘hand in the dough’. It is a hands-on inquiry based learning method, which encourages learning science in a different and engaging way. By offering teachers the possibility of engaging with trainers and other teachers through training and discussion, the LAMAP model encourages the promotion of science instruction in primary and secondary schools. During training sessions, teachers share their ideas on how to improve science learning in classrooms, and learn from other teachers' experiences (through watching documentaries and videos).

The LAMAP model consists of 10 principles that focus on the idea that students question the objects, the world – everything that essentially makes up their environment. They then define the scientific problem, come up with hypotheses, seek the means to verify those, and then finally confirm them to draw a conclusion.

Training modules for teachers will be developed and designed according to a pre-set syllabus for teachers training according to LAMAP’s principles. During trainings, teachers will be given various tasks to develop activities related to science subjects to help students understand relevant concepts. Sharing ideas will enable teachers to learn from each other’s experience and adopt good examples for students in classrooms.

Additionally, SDF will prepare a “Learning Box” for school children. Different topics in the school curriculum’s science books will be converted into tangible models. For example, objects such as atoms are modeled out of modeling material in order to increase students' interest and engagement with the subject. These models seek to contribute to student learning and assist them in grasping various processes and concepts. SDF is also creating a short instructional video that demonstrates how to make use of different science models in schools. Additionally, in order to gauge students’ interest and improvement in learning, a quarterly science exhibition will be arranged in each selected school. Students will prepare different science models which will be exhibited within the school.

http://www.educationinnovations.org/program/inquiry-based-learning-programme-iblp

Riaz Haq said...

Leaders of organized religions do inhibit open inquiry which is the essence of science and innovation. Innovation requires freedom to ask and try to answer questions without fear of "blasphemy" and "heresy" charges that characterized the "Dark Ages" in Europe and now prevalent in countries like Pakistan.


Are science and religion doomed to eternal "warfare," or can they just get along? Philosophers, theologians, scientists and atheists debate this subject endlessly (and often, angrily). We hear a lot less from economists on the matter, however. But in a recent paper, Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues unveiled a surprising finding that would at least appear to bolster the "conflict" camp: Both across countries and also across US states, higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation.

"Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita," comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists "when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education."

That's the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different "regimes." The three kinds of regimes that they identify: A secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

It is in the process of this inquiry on the relationship between science, religion, and the state that the researchers dive into an analysis of patents, both in the United States and across the globe. And the results are pretty striking.

First, the researchers looked at the raw data on patents per capita (taken from the World Intellectual Property Organization's data) and religiosity (based on the following question from the World Values Survey: "Independently of whether you go to church or not, would you say you are: a religious person, not a religious person, a convinced atheist, don't know"). And they found a "strong negative relationship" between the two. In other words, for countries around the world, more religion was tied to fewer patents per individual residing in the country.

Those data aren't shown here, however, because in many ways, that would be too simplistic of an analysis. It is clear that many other factors than just religion (wealth, education, and so on) influence a country's number of patents per capita. What's striking, however, is that after the authors controlled for no less than five other standard variables related to innovation (population, levels of economic development, levels of foreign investment, educational levels, and intellectual property protections) the relationship still persisted.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/religion-quashes-innovation-patents

Riaz Haq said...

Two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. We use Arabic numerals. Words like Algebra and Algorithm are from Arabic. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, discusses how Islamic scholars contributed to the Islamic Golden Age and how over time independent reasoning (ijthad) lost out to modern institutionalised imitation (taqleed) present in the wider islamic society today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDAT98eEN5Q

Riaz Haq said...

The butterfly effect: Helping Pakistan’s children emerge from their cocoon

The human brain is one of nature’s most fascinating and mysterious creations, with its full potential still unknown. And Prof Tony Buzan is on a quest to understand how it works.

Buzan and his team have picked Pakistan as the starting point for their Butterfly Universe Initiative, a global movement for mental literacy that focuses upon ‘learning how to learn’. The project aims to unleash the potential of five million children in the country by 2020 through mind mapping.

“Our goal is to have a mentally literate world, and for that, everyone must think,” explains Buzan, the inventor of the mind mapping method and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2014. History, according to him, has witnessed every developed country being led by critical thinking — and the creativity and energy he sees in Pakistan’s people makes him think it is the perfect place to begin his mission.

“In this digital age, there are manuals for everything but our brains,” says Buzan. “Our vision is simple: learn how to understand your brain.”

There are three things he looks for in the teachers selected for his project: the ability to imagine, the vision to daydream and the passion to educate. “We as a team gave a formula to our master trainers to train teachers, who will further teach students to broaden their mental horizons and see the flip side of the picture.”

Over the course of the project, the teachers will be shown how to open up their minds, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. “The beautiful, vibrant butterfly we see was not always that way — it was a caterpillar that went through the stages of transformation,” Tariq Qureishy, the CEO of Vantage Holding and founder of 100% MAD (Make A Difference), draws a butterfly on a piece of paper to illustrate his point. “Unfortunately, our system never lets our teachers and students evolve beyond the cocoon.”

He hastens to add that the children are not at fault — it is the system and the teachers that share equal responsibility. “Our project is unique because we try to make learning for fun for children and teaching interesting for teachers.”

One thousand trained teachers from four different schooling systems, including The Citizens Foundation and The City School, have already started promoting mind mapping within their schools. “We are targeting 100 schools for a year, where teachers get two hours of training every evening and the students learn through a full-day training programme on Saturdays,” Qureishy shares the plan for the project’s initial phase.

“It is believed that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one place, it can cause a hurricane weeks later in a distant location,” says Qureishy. “The 1,000 butterflies that we have trained have started flapping their wings. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world joins in.”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/858975/the-butterfly-effect-helping-pakistans-children-emerge-from-their-cocoon/

Riaz Haq said...

Dawn Op Ed: Can Pakistan be the next Silicon Valley?

Technology is the core growth driver in the 21st century; policymakers can’t ignore its interplay with entrepreneurship and focus solely on ‘bricks and mortar’.
This is the century of the ‘tech entrepreneurs’. Embracing this notion intelligently — by studying others’ successes and mistakes — will speed up Pakistan’s evolution.
Pakistan can channel local entrepreneurs into industries it fully or partially controls, for example defence and healthcare.
To retain the smartest Pakistanis, a richly-funded, high paying and elite training program can be instituted that polishes them into innovation leaders.
Pakistan’s Research & Development expenditure vis-a-vis its gross domestic product (GDP) was $2 per person. In comparison, India spent $9 per person.
With 100 million Pakistanis joining the labour force in the coming decades, Pakistan cannot afford to wait.


India's decade of innovation
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the podium to speak about a new national innovation policy on a sunny morning in January 2013, there had hitherto been no comprehensive government-led focus on innovation in India. Policies of yore never tied knowledge production to commercialisation, leading to innovators unable to make money. So innovation never boomed.

The policy Singh unveiled in 2013 finally took a much-needed holistic approach. The decade leading to 2020 was labeled the ‘Decade of Innovation’, with a central theme of supporting for innovative entrepreneurship. Fragments of the Indian innovation ecosystem were all streamlined for the first time.

There existed within Singh’s policy echoes of the Chinese model. In China, the central government plays a homogenising role to curtail knowledge gaps caused by too much provincial devolution. The thinking is that for the machine to work, every cog must be made to do its part. And while the jury is out on India’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) 2013 policy, the success of its Chinese counterpart is readily visible.

Pakistan may be a large country, but in this respect, it must act like a small one, with the central government formulating a holistic and nation-wide innovation policy. Everyone must get on the same page, or else Pakistan will remain stuck as the world pulls away ever faster.

although Pakistan isn’t slick enough to tempt foreign immigrants from developed economies, it can at least try to get its own immigrants back. About 13,000 Pakistanis working in Silicon Valley are obvious candidates — their engineering skills as good as any.

Luring back expats is an integral part of the equation but it doesn’t complete the equation. The other part is producing greater numbers of smart people in the first place; exploiting that massive population base.

At all levels, the education system instituted by the Pakistani government relies heavily on rote-learning. That’s got to go. Moreover, the secondary and higher school certificates curriculum promotes convention and obedience at the expense of experimentation or creativity. Guess which of these traits produce innovation?

http://www.dawn.com/news/1266069/can-pakistan-be-the-next-silicon-valley#comments

Riaz Haq said...

Mir Bayyaan Baloch, first child in #Pakistan to receive a 3D printed hand from #NEDUET MakerStudio http://bit.ly/2a7wcyt via @techjuicepk

Bioniks, a prosthetics provider, in collaboration with Xplorer 3D (a 3D printer manufacturer) and Viscous.co (3D printer retailer) to provide a child with a 3D printed hand. Mir Bayyaan Baloch, a five-year-old boy, is the first Pakistani child to receive such a treatment. Mir was born without a right hand, but the companies involved along with the cooperation of Mir’s father, Mir Umer Baloch, have given him an artificial hand that allows him to do everything other children can do.

Stephen Davies and Drew Murray’s Team UnLimbited were one of the first resources that Mir Umer found when he was looking for a prosthetic hand for his son on the Internet. Stephen and Drew had designed the UnLimbited Arm, a prosthetic for individuals that have no hand but a functional elbow, which was used for Bayyan’s right hand. Once Mir Umer had found the perfect prosthetic for his child, he reached out to Bioniks for the case.

With the help of a Xplorer 3D printer stationed at the NED University of Engineering and Technology, Bioniks printed the UnLimbited Arm. They then adjusted the device to fit the boy’s arms. The work on the 3D printed arm was carried out at NED’s MakerStudio (a 3D Printing Facility) that is running under Viscous.co. The printers available at MakerStudio have been donated by NEDEA Chicago, NED ALEF, and Indus Pencil Industries (Pvt.) Ltd.

The 3D printed prosthetic arm was then fitted into Bayyaan’s arm to give him a completely function right hand that he felt comfortable with. Previously, Bayyaan was not able to shake hands, give high fives, and even hold objects with his right hand.

Mir Bayyaan Baloch may not realize that he is the first-ever child in Pakistan to receive such a treatment but he is very excited about finally being able to live his life as any other child would. This is an incredible feat achieved through the dedication and passion of companies such as Bioniks and Xplorer 3D, and individuals such as Mir Umer, Stephen, and Drew.

Riaz Haq said...

The Grid: #Pakistan’s first Virtual Reality Lab at #NED University Petroleum Dept in #Karachi http://bit.ly/29QtDx4 via @techjuicepk

The Grid is a first of its kind Virtual Reality Lab cum Media Center at a university’s level in the country. This facility recently launched its operations for students, faculty, and industry personnel for collaborative learning pertaining to Virtual Reality and using it to educate engineers. The lab provides support to students and faculty in their work on simulations via Unity 3D, a popular software for various field work around the globe. The 360 Panoramic shots, shared by the Petroleum Engineering Department’s alumni working in oil fields, are helping students to get a first-hand experience of field work as if they are actually there.

The facility currently consists of four VR stations equipped with high-tech state of the art equipment including VR headsets along with remote controllers, a tablet-based media hub. The big screen allows one to share the data from the tablet with everyone using a chromecast interface. The media hub consists of visual data and simulations from alumni which can be shared with users anytime. Mohsin Yousufi told that the media lab is not restricted to the students of Petroleum Engineering and is open to everyone who want to create their simulations and test their projects.

Organizing field trips are difficult due to isolated locations of work fields, here this lab is bridging the gap by enabling students to have an experience whilst being on campus. The lab has already connected the alumni to academics and alumni are now sending in 360 Panoramic shots to help students gain an insight into the field work. Mohsin Yousufi believes that the lab will help faculty in imparting practical knowledge to students and giving training to engineers by adopting VR as an enabler tool. With an ambition to expand the lab and make it a play-area for engineers, Mohsin is striving hard to make this space a game-changer for the academia as well as the industry.

The Grid is a Petroleum Engineering Department Alumni Project and is being funded by the alumni of NED University.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's Federal Government grants #Karachi's #NED Engineering University Rs 900 over 3 years for big projects https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/138117-NED-to-get-Rs900mn-from-Centre-in-three-years …

Ahsan Iqbal inaugurates Advanced Material Testing Laboratory at NED’s Department of Earthquake Engineering

Karachi

The federal government will provide Rs900 million in the next three years to the NED University for completing new mega projects being initiated at the university, said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday while inaugurating the Advanced Material Testing Laboratory at the Department of Earthquake Engineering, NED University of Engineering and Technology.

He said the federal government had adopted an important policy to upgrade all engineering universities of the country and different projects had been initiated at these universities across the country.

According to him, the government has allocated Rs1500 billion to achieve the target while the federal government has also doubled the funding to improve higher education in Pakistan. “From the year 2010 to 2013, Rs100 billion were granted for the higher education. But when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz came in the power, the grant was increased to Rs2015 billion from the year 2013 to 2016.”

Quoting the figures of increase in grant, he said the increment showed that the party was working in the right direction and following the indicators set for its vision 2025, through which it wanted to establish “knowledge economy”.

“The majority of the country’s population comprises of youngsters and that is why we want to provide them the best education and access to technology to produce high quality human resources in the country.”

Ahsan Iqbal expressed that he was impressed with the standard of education being provided at the NED University and believed that its students could participate anywhere around the world.

He congratulated the faculty and staff for preparing students to face challenges in their lives.

The PML-N leader also assured the government’s support to universities which would play any role in national development.

The federal minister claimed that all efforts would be carried out to eradicate terrorism from the country.