Thoughts on 2nd International Conference on Advances in Space Technologies (ICAST- 2008)

By Asmat Ali

Since 2006, Institute of Geographical Information Systems (IGIS) has hosted the International Conference on Advances in Space Technologies (ICAST) each year. This year the conference (ICAST-2008) was organized by Institute of Geographical Information Systems (IGIS), National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Islamabad Section, and IEEE/AESS (Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society) Islamabad Chapter and IEEE/GRSS (Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society) Islamabad Chapter. The conference was held on November 29-30 at the NUST Campus, Islamabad, Pakistan. This year’s theme was "Space in the Service of Mankind." This event was geared toward those who make use of space technology in their daily work. Conference attendees were primarily space scientists, researchers, policy makers and key persons from NMOs, such as the Survey of Pakistan. A number of students from varying disciplines such as remote sensing, space technology, GIS and IT were also invited to the conference in order to educate them on the potential uses of space technologies and subsequently to support them in their future work related to the development of space services for mankind. I attended the conference, and gave a research paper which was published in the conference.

Almost 200 participants from various organizations such as Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), the Survey of Pakistan (SOP), the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), the Pakistan Science Foundation, the National ICT R&D Fund, NGOs like World Wildlife Fund Pakistan (WWF-P), as well as delegates from abroad were present at the conference. A number of practical examples of utilization of space technologies in service of mankind were presented. There were six technical sessions:
  • Space Technologies
  • Aerospace Systems
  • Communication Systems Engineering
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Remote Sensing and Image processing
  • Social Benefits of Space Technologies
Scientists from diverse fields enlightened the participants. For example, Dr. Qasim Sheikh of the National ICT R&D Fund discussed "Future Challenges of Information and Communication Technologies" in his plenary presentation. He presented the current situation, and the opportunities, as well as challenges, faced by the IT industry of Pakistan. He underscored the importance, as well as challenge, of developing open source standards in IT. He promoted the need to do business process reengineering (BPR) as an opportunity to fit into the service era of the present age. However, he did not discuss the challenges and difficulties in doing BPR. He presented his definition of "innovation" as the driving engine for wealth generation, economic growth and value creation. His definition of innovation should be well understood in the context of developing countries like Pakistan.

Dr. Zafar Taqvi, fellow of Automation and Technology Department - The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society, USA, shared with the participants his knowledge, understanding and experiences of "Communication Satellites." Dr. Jamil Kazami addressed in his keynote speech his vision that science is for today, not for tomorrow, which was a surprising statement for many participants. Like other presenters, he also kept the focus on technology rather than the knowledge that drives technology.

The speakers on geographical information systems, remote sensing and image processing presented their work, which was mostly technology-oriented. However, some social benefits of using space technologies were also highlighted.

Developing countries like Pakistan are fascinated by technologies rather than the knowledge that drives technologies.

Published Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Written by Asmat Ali

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