• Monday, May 27, 2024

  • CUI

  • INIT

The Inter Islamic Network on Information Technology (INIT) in collaboration with COMSATS University Islamabad, the Ministry of IT & Telecommunication, Government of Pakistan, and the ICT4D Collective convened the 4th International Workshop on ICTs for Development: Mainstreaming the Marginalized on May 14, 2024, at Islamabad.

This Workshop aimed to bridge the current gap in ICT provision for education, particularly for the marginalized, elderly, and disabled individuals who have been isolated until now. Through interactive sessions, including presentations, and open floor debates, the Workshop sought to address crucial topics such as accessibility policies, government support, and infrastructure availability. The workshop contributed to evaluating human resources in marginalized communities, integrating ICTs to enhance their quality of life. The Workshop consisted of presentations and open discussions around the following themes:

  • General Accessibility
  • Economic and Financial Well Being
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Employment
  • Security and Privacy

The workshop started with the recitation of Holy Quran. In an opening address by Dr Tahir Naeem, Executive Director, INIT, elucidated how ICTs have a transformative potential impact on marginalized communities as they improve access to resources, enhance economic opportunities, and foster social inclusion. He also highlighted the importance of the contributions that local authorities and voluntary and community sectors have to make in addressing social inclusion. Speaking on the occasion, the Lead Facilitator of the Workshop, Prof. Tim Unwin, Emeritus Professor at Royal Holloway University of London, UK, and former UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, emphasized on the role the ICTs are playing in ensuring sustainable development. He said that ICT experts can enable to formulate roadmaps for initiating multidimensional development projects ensuring sustainability of disable and marginalized people and can help in alleviating poverty by devising ways of providing easy and timely access to useful information for the marginalized communities. Addressing to the audience, Dr S. M. Junaid Zaidi H.I., S.I., Founder Rector, COMSATS University Islamabad, said that ICTs are transformative tools that can significantly enhance the lives of individuals and communities, particularly those who are marginalized and by providing access to essential services and opportunities, ICTs can help bridge various divides and promote inclusive development. He praised the INIT’s persistent efforts in raising awareness about the issues and difficulties faced by people with disabilities and marginal communities, and expressed his well wishes for the INIT and encouraged it to continue carrying out the similar events. Mr Shahid Ahmed Memon, Chairman, Pakistan Disabled Foundation, also spoke on the occasion. In his speech, he said that ICTs can significantly improve the lives of people with disabilities by enhancing access to education, employment, healthcare, and social inclusion. He also applauded the INIT’s role in improving the lives of people with disabilities through its various events over the years. Lastly, a vote of thanks was delivered by Prof. Dr Sajid Qamar, President, INIT/ Rector, COMSATS University Islamabad. In his speech, he said that uplifting marginalized communities involves a multifaceted approach that addresses systemic issues, promotes inclusion, and empowers individuals. By taking informed, contemporary and comprehensive steps, a more equitable society can be created where marginalized communities have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the broader community. Lastly, he congratulated the INIT and organizers for conducting the Workshop and thanked all the speakers and participants for their valuable contributions in this important event.

Concluding the opening ceremony, Dr Akber Abid Gardezi, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, COMSATS University Islamabad, unveiled the research report titled “Development of a Gap Analysis and Roadmap to Meet the Technology Needs of People with Disability and Special Needs in OIC Member States” whereby the salient features of the report were discussed. The report was developed in collaboration with UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development. The study is aimed at defining the elements of an accessibility infrastructure and reviewing the availability of such elements within and across OIC member states. The study conducted a gap analysis of the current state of policy across five pilot OIC Member states namely Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, and Tunisia.

In the first session of the Workshop, Mr Shabbir Awan, Research Fellow, Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA), National Defence University, Islamabad presented his talk on the subject of “Disability Policies from a Technology Perspective”. In this talk, he said that disability policies from a technology perspective are crucial in bridging the digital divide and ensuring that people with disabilities have an equal access to the digital world. He emphasized that these policies, standards, and initiatives not only promote accessibility but also drive innovation in assistive technologies, creating a more inclusive society, and by continually updating and enforcing these policies, governments and organizations can ensure that technological advancements benefit everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Mr Waqas Ahmad, CEO, Atom Global also presented his talk at the Workshop on the subject of “AI for Inclusion: Harnessing the Power of Artificial Intelligence to Empower Marginalized Communities”. Mr Waqas had informed the audience about Pakistan’s first indigenously built AI platform designed by his company with the aim to empower every citizen of Pakistan with the best and latest knowledge about various subjects related to his well-being, growth & development and social protection. He said that the AI platform is trained on Pakistan’s law and has the capability to provide insights into various laws of Pakistan along with citations and analysis besides covering Criminal, Civil, Family, Tax, Consumer, Inheritance and other branches of Law. He further said that Pakistan can only grow if we bring our marginalized at par with the blessed ones and their AI platform will facilitate all citizens to learn about their rights and at the same time prevent them from being exploited.

The second session of Workshop began with a presentation by Mr Muhammad Atif Sheikh, Director, Special Talent Exchange Program/Chair, South Asian Disability Forum/Commonwealth Forum of Disabled People on “E-learning Tool on Disability Inclusive DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) Developed by UNESCAP and STEP for NDMA (UNESCAP Funded Project)”. Mr Atif said that developing an e-learning tool focused on Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) involves creating a comprehensive educational platform that addresses the unique needs of people with disabilities in the context of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. By involving stakeholders, ensuring content is accessible, incorporating interactive and practical learning tools, and continuously evaluating and improving the platform, such an e-learning tool can effectively equip users with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure that DRR efforts are inclusive and equitable.

Ms Abia Akram, Chair, Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities Network/ Director, Special Talent Exchange Program talked at length about “Role of Women With Disabilities in Creating Accessible Referral Pathways (UNPF Funded Project)”. In her speech, she said that women with disabilities play an indispensable role in creating accessible referral pathways by bringing their lived experiences and insights to the forefront of design, development, and implementation processes. She stressed that their active participation ensures that referral systems are not only inclusive but also practical and effective in meeting the needs of all individuals with disabilities, and by advocating, designing, training, monitoring, and leading, they help create a more equitable and accessible society.

The last speaker of the 2nd session was Dr Amir Rasheed Ch, CEO, FAMBZZHH, who shed light on the subject of “Empowering Abilities: Navigating Life with Disabilities”. Dr Amir emphasized that empowering abilities and navigating life with disabilities requires a holistic approach that integrates education, employment, healthcare, social inclusion, technology, legal rights, and personal development. He said that by addressing these areas comprehensively and promoting inclusive practices, society can create an environment where individuals with disabilities can thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

The Workshop was a great success as it was participated by people hailing from different organizations, marginalized communities, policy planners, development professionals, researchers, technology experts, ICT organizations, universities, R&D organizations, disability organizations and development sector.

List of Speakers:

1.    Prof. Dr Sajid Qamar

President, INIT/

Rector, COMSATS University Islamabad


2.    Dr S. M. Junaid Zaidi H.I., S.I.

Founder Rector

COMSATS University Islamabad

3.    Prof. Tim Unwin

Emeritus Professor at Royal Holloway University of London, UK

Former UNESCO Chair in ICT4D

4.    Dr Tahir Naeem

Executive Director, INIT

Director, P&D and HRD

COMSATS University Islamabad

5.    Dr Akber Abid Gardezi

Assistant Professor

Department of Computer Science

COMSATS University Islamabad


6.    Mr Shahid Ahmed Memon


Pakistan Disabled Foundation


7.    Mr Shabbir Awan

Research Fellow

Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA),

National Defence University


8.    Mr Waqas Ahmad


Atom Global


9.    Dr Muhammad Asif Gul

Associate Professor

Federal Government Educational Institutions (C/G), Rawalpindi /

National University of Pakistan, Islamabad

10.  Mr Muhammad Atif Sheikh

Director, Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP)/

Chair, South Asian Disability Forum / Commonwealth Forum of Disabled People

11.  Ms Abia Akram

Director, Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP)/

Chair, Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities Network

12.  Dr Amir Rasheed Ch



List of Participating Organizations:

  1. Abasyn University, Islamabad
  2. Alazem Textile, Faisalabad
  3. Army Special Education Academy, Rawalpindi
  4. Asia Pacific Women with Disabilities Network
  5. Askari Bank, Islamabad
  6. Assistech Solutions, Islamabad
  7. Atom Global, Rawalpindi
  8. COMSATS Headquarters, Islamabad
  9. COMSATS University Islamabad
  10. COMSATS University Islamabad, Wah Campus
  11. FAMBZZHH, Islamabad
  12. Federal Government Educational Institutions (C/G), Rawalpindi
  13. ICT4D Collective/ Royal Holloway University of London, UK
  14. Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA), National Defence University, Islamabad
  15. Inter Islamic Network on Information Technology, Islamabad
  16. Ministry of IT & Telecommunication, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad
  17. National Cleaner Production Center, Rawalpindi
  18. National University of Pakistan, Islamabad
  19. Pakistan Association of the Blind, Faisalabad
  20. Pakistan Association of the Deaf, Karachi
  21. Pakistan Disabled Foundation, Karachi
  22. Pakistan Institute of Engineering & Applied Sciences (PIEAS), Islamabad
  23. Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Islamabad
  24. Pakistan Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, Lahore
  25. Pakistan Telecom Authority, Islamabad
  26. Paraplegic Center, Peshawar
  27. Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad
  28. Sir Syed School & College of Special Education, Rawalpindi
  29. South Asian Disability Forum / Commonwealth Forum of Disabled People
  30. Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Islamabad
  31. Voice of Special Persons, Rawalpindi

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