‘Super, super big’: Pakistan’s indigenously developed AI tool makes a worldwide splash

1 / 2
The logo of OpenAI is displayed near a response by its AI chatbot ChatGPT on its website, in this illustration picture taken February 9, 2023. (REUTERS/File)
2 / 2
The photo taken on April 29, 2023, shows Saad Mughal (left) and Hammad Khan, co-founders of the tech consulting firm AlphaVenture, based in Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo)
Short Url
Updated 30 April 2023
Follow

‘Super, super big’: Pakistan’s indigenously developed AI tool makes a worldwide splash

  • The AI tool helps users create personalized raps, bios and dating profiles based on their Twitter posts
  • Within three days of its launch, AIAV reached over 200,000 users from 194 countries around the world

KARACHI: When Pakistani artificial intelligence engineers Hammad Khan, 29, and Saad Mughal, 27, initially developed and released an AI tool, they meant to test the waters of the world of AI. Little did they know that the locally developed app would end up making a massive splash worldwide.

In layman’s terms, AI is a branch of computer science concerned with building and managing technology that can learn to make decisions and carry out actions on behalf of a human being. AIAV, developed by Khan and Mughal, residents of Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, helps users create personalized raps, biographies, and dating profiles all based on their social media persona.

Here’s what the tool does for you: Enter your Twitter handle and wait for the AI engine to scan all your tweets. Once it’s done rummaging through hundreds of your tweets and poring over content you posted on Twitter, AIAV produces the user’s brief biography, a personalized rap, and a dating profile.

Such was the tool’s popularity within three days of its launch that AIAV became one of the fastest generative AI products to reach more than 200,000 users from 194 countries earlier this month.

Khan and Mughal, co-founders of the tech consulting firm AlphaVenture that specializes in data and AI, said they developed the tool and launched it in the first week of April.

“I published this and went for an iftar party, and when I came back to my home, I realized that the tool has gone super, super big,” Khan, chief executive officer of AlphaVenture, told Arab News. “Because initially, I intended that maybe 1,000 people might use it or test it, but what we were seeing was astronomical as everything was crashing down.”

Khan is a graduate of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, one of Pakistan’s leading private universities.

The AI tool performs its task by combining ChatGPT, widely regarded as the best generative large language model, with specialized technologies such as Elasticsearch and GoogleNLP. The result offers unparalleled speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

Khan said the next 72 hours after the launch were an “interesting experience” as the two founders slept less and had their hands full trying to scale the tool in accordance with its rising demand.

“Every time we would try to scale it, every time we would try to maybe build more things on it, 10,000 or 20,000 people would come in,” he said. “We were literally in awe.”

AIAV has so far reached an impressive 12 million users worldwide and clocked in over 400,000 user signups.

“Primarily, the whole idea of building this tool was to test it and maybe compete with the likes of startups in the Silicon Valley and see how far we can take it, and I think now it’s pretty well tested,” Khan said. “We have tested it with over 400,000 users. Now, I’m pretty happy with the result, but honestly, we didn’t expect this.”

The majority of the tool’s users are from the US, UK, and the Middle East. Many of them believe that its “personal nature” caused the AI program to attract people from all parts of the world.

Mughal said the duo was making modifications to AIAV so that the response generated by the context engine was more accurate. The founders are also in touch with a few venture capital funds for financing.

Buoyed by AIAV’s phenomenal success, Khan and Mughal, who live in Karachi’s middle-class Gulistan-e-Jauhar neighborhood, have their eyes set on broadening the tool’s application.

“We are now working to roll out the [upgraded version] to help people in legal, financial, and academic fields among others,” Mughal said.


Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

Updated 4 min 2 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

  • The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks
  • Kyrgyz medical schools have over the decades become popular among aspiring doctors, thanks to affordable fees and living expenses

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday called for improving regulatory framework for medical education in Pakistan to make it at par with international standards and to resolve issues faced by Pakistani students studying abroad, Pakistani state media reported.
The decision was made at a meeting of a government committee on medical education in Islamabad, which was presided over by Dar. The committee reviewed medical education system, including fee structures, and identified key areas for improvement to align it with global standards.
The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks on residences of foreign students studying in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek over an earlier brawl between several Kyrgyz men and some Egyptian students.
Medical schools of Kyrgyzstan have over the last few decades become popular among aspiring doctors from India, Pakistan and some other Asian and Arab countries, in part thanks to relatively affordable fees and living expenses.
“The Deputy Prime Minister underlined the need to establish coordination mechanism between medical institutions and the public and private sector to ensure uniform high-quality education in all provinces,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The meeting decided to constitute a sub-executive committee to review the existing TORs [terms of reference], synergize the regulatory bodies, streamline procedures for foreign students in Pakistan and uniformity in curricula.”
PM Shehbaz Sharif constituted the committee on medical education on May 20. The committee, which includes representatives of the medical community, education sector and government officials, was set up to reform medical education, improve health care standards and ensure highest quality of medical training for future generations of health care professionals.
“The sub-committee will prepare its report with the objective to ensure that medical graduates in Pakistan are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to meet contemporary health care challenges,” the report read.


Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

  • Ireland, Spain and Norway this week said they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday held a telephonic conversation with his Irish counterpart Simon Harris, in which he admired Ireland’s recent decision to recognize Palestine as a state, Sharif’s office said.
The Pakistan prime minister felicitated his Irish counterpart on his assumption of office and remarked that his youth and dynamism would bring major changes to Ireland, according to a statement issued from Sharif’s office.
He noted that Pakistan had always advocated that a two-state solution, in accordance with relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, was the only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East.
“Ireland’s decision would send a message of hope and solidarity to the innocent Palestinians who were suffering Israel’s brutal atrocities,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.
“It would also go a long way in promoting the Palestine cause and would urge other countries to follow Ireland.”
The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway said on Wednesday they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
PM Harris said that Ireland had taken a principled decision in consultation with other European allies because the extent of Israel’s military action in Gaza could no longer be condoned in any way.
“The Irish felt that this decision was necessary to promote normalization in the occupied territories,” he was quoted as saying.
Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to the just struggle of the Palestinian people and lauded the decision of the International Court of Justice to order Israel to stop its assault on Gaza and Rafah.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.


Pakistani delegation to seek investments during Kuwait visit by month-end

Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistani delegation to seek investments during Kuwait visit by month-end

  • The delegation will be led by Pakistan’s investment minister Abdul Aleem Khan and hold meeting with top officials
  • Khan says the visit will also help create greater employment opportunities for Pakistani workforce in the Gulf state

ISLAMABAD: A high-level Pakistani delegation is expected to visit Kuwait by the end of the month to strengthen bilateral cooperation and highlight business opportunities in the country amid renewed efforts to attract investment from the Gulf state.
Last year, the two countries agreed to deepen their economic and investment ties during the visit of interim prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar to the Arab state in late November. The visit was billed as a significant step in enhancing the relationship between the two countries, with the signing of various memoranda of understanding aimed at boosting cooperation in fields such as manpower, information technology, mineral exploration, food security, energy and defense.
Kakar’s visit to Kuwait came just a few months after the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing with a specific focus on the Gulf region.
The upcoming visit of the Pakistani delegation, led by Federal Minister for Board of Investment, Privatization and Communications Abdul Aleem Khan, was announced in an official statement, although the exact dates were not specified.
“During the visit to Kuwait, there will be progress in providing employment to more workforce from Pakistan, especially health professionals and skilled labor,” Khan was quoted as saying in the statement.
“Pakistan will increase cooperation [with Kuwait] by taking on board its export companies for dairy farming, meat products, rice and other food items and move forward through accelerated measures,” he added.
The minister expressed optimism that the visit would mark the beginning of a new era of mutual cooperation, improvement in economic affairs and investment, for which the relevant departments were making preparations.
He presided over a meeting about the visit and told participants that Kuwait’s envoy had also been taken on board while making all necessary arrangements.
The delegation is expected to hold meetings with top officials of the Gulf country to discuss trade and business activities between the two countries.


Can New York hit cricket for 6? These guys think so

Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Can New York hit cricket for 6? These guys think so

  • The centuries-old English game has a feverish following throughout much of the world
  • But US, partial to American football, basketball and baseball, has been stubborn holdout

EAST MEADOW: In the shadow of New York skyscrapers a field of dreams emerges, but it is not a baseball diamond. It’s for another bat-and-ball sport — cricket — that supporters are betting will finally bowl Americans over.
The centuries-old English game has a feverish following throughout much of the world, but the United States, long partial to American football, basketball and national pastime baseball, has been a stubborn holdout.
That may change early next month when the United States has its moment in the cricket sun, co-hosting the Twenty20 World Cup — the championship series for a shortened format of cricket.
The temporary new stadium, financed entirely by the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body, will host eight tournament matches including the June 9 headliner, a potentially epic clash between powerhouses India and Pakistan, two of the sport’s biggest rivals.
Some 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of New York, a forest of metal beams supporting 34,000 bleacher seats rises from Long Island’s Eisenhower Park, a site the ICC chose after its earlier plan in the Bronx fell through.
It is not quite the gracious as Lord’s cricket ground in London, but Nassau County International Cricket Stadium will be in the spotlight shortly — thanks to a swift green light from local authorities.
“The world is coming right here to Nassau County. You’re going to have kings and princes and big dignitaries,” beamed the county’s deputy commissioner of parks, Michael D’Ambrosio.
“A lot of people are very envious and jealous that we got this,” he told AFP, noting the tournament’s massive global viewership.
The ICC, for its part, is investing big in the sport’s future in the US, particularly the New York region, home to several hundred thousand people with links to cricket-playing countries, notably India and Pakistan.
The India-Pakistan showdown is already sold out, with tickets now topping $1,000 each online.
But once the stadium is dismantled in July, local cricket will return to its struggling state. Despite having around 10,000 players, the sport has no dedicated stadium in New York.
“Cricket is growing, but the infrastructure — that’s where the fight is,” lamented Ajith Shetty, president of the Commonwealth Cricket League (CCL), the region’s premier cricket grouping.
New York does field a team in Major League Cricket, the professional league launched last year, and plays on dedicated pitches — in Texas and North Carolina, where all MLC matches occur to control costs.
“We are exploring opportunities to create a permanent venue close to our loyal fan base,” a spokesperson for defending MLC champions MI New York told AFP.
Meanwhile CCL players lug a 500-pound (225-kilogram) mat from park to park, which acts as the “pitch,” the rectangular area at the center of a cricket field.
“No other sport has to put in this much work, only cricket in New York. They make us suffer,” said Shetty, an Indian-born entrepreneur.
“New York used to be a Makkah of cricket,” he added. But while conditions have stagnated in the Big Apple, other states have improved, especially Texas.
Houston is where team USA stunned Bangladesh on Thursday to sweep their three-match T20 international series ahead of the World Cup.
Backed by local entrepreneurs, some CCL clubs pay players thousands of dollars per year, although not enough to quit their day jobs.
Waqas Ashiq, who plays for Long Island United CC and recalls the struggles back when the team started in 2008, sees the glass half full.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said before strolling on to the field to bat.
“I’m hopeful that with this World Cup coming, people get their interest piqued a little bit.”
According to Shetty, the entrepreneur, the ICC is keen to invest in US youth development, particularly in light of cricket returning to the Olympics, at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Schools are also showing interest.
The challenge now, agreed Ashiq, in addition to the quest for a permanent stadium, is involving the next generation — children of the cricket-loving immigrants who have made New York their home.
“That’s the only way to grow the sport and make sure it’s secure for the next 10, 20, 30 years.”


Pakistan and China move forward on $6.76 billion railway line project amid increased security measures

Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan and China move forward on $6.76 billion railway line project amid increased security measures

  • Minister Ahsan Iqbal says ML-1 project is now ready for the bidding process among eligible Chinese companies
  • PM Sharif also meets Chinese businessmen, asks them to set up industries in special economic zones under CPEC

KARACHI: With an emphasis on improving the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan, officials in Beijing and Islamabad held the 13th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting online on Friday, agreeing to proceed with the ML-1 railway project estimated to cost over $6 billion.
The JCC meeting, which focused on joint energy and infrastructure development initiatives under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), was convened after the March 26 suicide attack that killed five Chinese engineers and their local driver en route to the under-construction Dasu dam.
Briefing the media about the decisions made during the meeting, Pakistan’s planning minister Ahsan Iqbal said Chinese security concerns were discussed during the talks.
“Security issues were discussed in the meeting and China was briefed on improving security,” he said, adding that Pakistani authorities had raised a special force to ensure the safety of CPEC projects.
The Chinese nationals in Pakistan have been targeted by various militant factions, with a significant number of attacks coming from Baloch nationalists who aim to push Beijing out of the mineral-rich Balochistan province.
Pakistan’s top economic body on Thursday approved $2.5 million in compensation for the families of the Chinese workers killed in the March 26 Dasu attack.
Iqbal mentioned that both sides decided to initiate more projects apart from those carried out under the CPEC umbrella, adding: “We will jointly improve the security for these projects.”
He also informed the two countries agreed to start the mega ML-1 railway project focusing on the dualization of the existing railway network, built in the late 19th century, and the overall upgrading of tracks connecting the port city of Karachi to Peshawar.
“I am pleased to inform you that Pakistan has made significant progress on the Pakistan Railways Mainline-1 project,” the planning minister said. “The re-modified PC-1 [project feasibility] has been approved with a cost of $6.76 billion in two phases.”
“The project is now ready for the bidding process among eligible Chinese companies,” he added. “We request that the bidding process should start immediately in view of the poor deterioration of the railway track.”
Iqbal also provided details of the CPEC projects that have been completed so far.
“It is heartening to note the steady progress CPEC has made since its inception in 2013,” he said. “In the energy sector, we have successfully completed 16 projects, with a generation capacity of 8,020 MW [megawatts], along with two coal mines and a +660 kV HVDC [Kilovolt High Voltage Direct Current] transmission line.”
He added that the 884 MV Suki Kinari hydropower project worth $1.707 billion was still under construction and expected to be commissioned by November 2024.
“Three power projects, including two hydel (Azad Pattan 700 MW and Kohala 1124 MW) and one coal-based (Gwadar) with a generation capacity of 2124.7 MW worth $4.157 billion, are at an advanced stage,” he continued.
The minister maintained concrete progress on the next CPEC phase would emerge after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to China, expected in the first week of June.
The two countries have closely collaborated since the launch of the joint corridor project. Sharif met representatives of several Chinese companies on Friday, noting that bilateral relations between the two states were further strengthening.
He urged Chinese companies to establish their industries in the special economic zones under CPEC by developing business-to-business relations, particularly inviting Chinese entrepreneurs in the textile sector to benefit from the opportunities in Pakistan.
Speaking to Arab News, Ammar Habib Khan, a senior research economist, acknowledged China’s financial assistance to Pakistan while suggesting that Islamabad wanted Beijing to soften its stance on restructuring about $15 billion in loans, mainly extended for power and other infrastructure projects.
“The debt restructuring of about $15 billion, including those of the power sector, will provide Pakistan a breathing space and could lead to a reduction in electricity prices,” he said.