Tagged: technology

Karachi’s first incubator opens for business

I honestly think we are at an inflection point. Thanks to the painstaking work done by Jehan Ara and her team at PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) The Google/Samsung/US State Department sponsored incubator is ready. Its brilliantly designed by Adil Moosajee and his team. I got a sneak peak and what I saw was impressive. Here are some of the pics I took.

The incubator will open on January 14th, 2015 formally, but already there is a steady stream of people coming in to see the facility. It has a 80 odd people presentation room with a 65 inch Samsung TV, a media studio, meeting spaces and ofcourse seating for 40 incubatees. That means that apprx. 15 teams would be incubated for a period of 4 months at a time.

It is money well spent and congrats to Jehan and the team. The location of the space is on Shaheed e Millat Road, close to Karachi’s Silicon Alley (Shahrae Faisal) and close by to DotZero also. Great work, and may we all benefit from this space.

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Connecting Industry to Higher Education. A three part solution.

In the battle for institutional supremacy sometimes we forget the person for whom we are making any application. And so, I propose to bring the little guy, the fresh career starter, the college graduate, the disgruntled middle level exec, the redundant factory worker, the about to be laid off office worker, the center of the discussion. Businesses will always complain that they don’t get enough trained manpower, and colleges will always complain about the lack of business involvement in the college and university system (and this is a world-wide phenomenon). Ad to this the dilemma posed by online courses and MOOCs and you have the perfect storm. The whole higher education to job scenario is being disrupted, and unfortunately many college grads around the world are not aware of what is needed to get them a good job, and how they can enhance their career prospects. That is the battleground which I would like to enter.

My solution is based on three parts:

Part 1: The career app

This part of the solution focuses on the career oriented user, someone who is in the middle of college and is now starting his or her linkedin profile. This app will encourage users to look at data on what skills are needed for success in their chosen field of study and what courses they can take to improve their skills. This will all be based on geography or online / MOOCs. For those already in the market and wanting to go up in their chosen field, this app will help them identify their weaknesses and what they need to do in order to improve. Once the courses have been completed and added to the app, the candidates will automatically appear on the interface of hiring managers at the respective companies, and hence the career oriented candidate will look “ready for market”. For those wanting to make a career switch the app will lay out a roadmap and encourage candidates to achieve gamified goals.

A mentoring component to the app will allow the candidates to seek mentoring from industry veterans and hiring managers looking to give time to help people in career advancement. The mentoring component will also be gamified with mentors getting rewards like badges and points, which can be used as a career advancement tool for them also. An annual mentor convention and awards ceremony will be conducted to give the mentors due recognition.

Part 2: The business data gathering app

This app is targeted to line managers in various organizations, and hiring managers also. It has a simple to use graphical UI that allows users to quickly give an answer to the skill question that is posed to them. They can view how others have responded within their organization and also in other similar companies. Even though participation is voluntary, all participants in the survey and all those who agree to be mentors would be eligible for points, badges and other gamified rewards leading upto the regional and national event, where the best mentors would be awarded.

For hiring managers, an added interface would allow them to see resumes of people who qualify for the skills that have been identified by line managers in their company. Again, a gamification system of rewards would be put into place in order to make the experience meaningful.

Part 3: College Business Responsiveness Index

This part of the three tier system revolves around colleges and universities in geographical clusters who are willing and able to deliver the skills that are identified by the businesses. These colleges would be shown the needs identified, and then they would be encouraged to come up with specific courses to meet the needs. The colleges, departments and campuses that show the most responsiveness would be given a college BRI score, and this score would be uploaded onto a central website and spread through social media, hence giving the college “street cred” with applicants. Hiring and Line Managers would rate the coursework, and student feedback would also be added in to arrive at the score.


The system will work when all three legs of the triad are strong and feed of each other. It is a long term project, and should take a year or so to complete the coding and get by in for a trial. After that, the system can work on its own, in my view.

Using Digital to Revolutionize Education in Pakistan

I think that the ilmapps challenge that has been launched by DFID and Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF) http://learninginnovatio n.pif.org.pk/ilm-apps-challenge/ is a great initiative to try and focus minds from the tech space to solve the pressing problems facing education in Pakistan. I had the opportunity of mentoring a team that had entered the competition from Karachi- Edequal. (www.edequal.pk). I was impressed with their model, and the degree to which they have been able to digitise content and testing for mathematics. The only area where I felt more research is needed is that they insist that students have a basic understanding of English, before starting the maths section. The reason is that the content is all in English (sourced from around the world). 

Having said that, what I liked about their approach is the assessment system. I want to lay the foundations of a system that works in replacement of the traditional educational system in Pakistan, and not work in consonance with it, as the current Edequal and other systems like Jugnu TV (www.jugnutv.com) do. 

I propose the following

A complete cancellation of the school based education in Pakistan, and a replacement by a system of life learning. This life learning system would allow students to advance at their own pace and not be reliant on spotty education systems that plague Pakistan. Assessments would be possible through assessment centers all over Pakistan to be run by a National Authority (like the NTS). Assessments would be done after biometric identification and would be online. Every child that is born in Pakistan, would be given a unique learning number (ULN). 

Since there would be no schools, so the question would arise that how would the students get any knowledge at all? In my opinion, learning given online and delivered through various mechanisms (tablets, pcs, mobile phones, blended learning in learning centers) is going to be more useful than the current state of both government and private school systems, barring a few high end schools where quality is delivered. 

The second thing is that the curriculum would be completely overhauled because different systems operating in Pakistan would all be abolished and one system with one testing system would be put in place. 

In a future post I will explore the question of language in such a system, and how various language formats can be incorporated into this. 

As would seem to be the case from the above argument, the issues are not really those of technology, but those of politics, and pedagogy. We have the tech to solve the problem of education in Pakistan, but do we have the political will?