Monday, November 10, 2008

US-Pakistan "official" launch and associated PR

After some discussion with various groups we decided to "declare" an official launch date for the US-Pakistan connection and release some publicity. This concludes Phase 1 of the US-Pakistan project (the network construction phase).

The political situation in Pakistan is a bit unsettled at the moment. The HEC has a new Chairman, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman having resigned. Phase 2 of the project (development of closer scientific collaborations between US and Pakistani researchers) has been somewhat slowed. But, I am confident we will be moving ahead quickly as the HEC situation sorts itself out.

Following are pointers to the official PR released about the US-Pakistan network connection.

US Natioinal Science Foundation

Indiana University

European Commission

Monday, September 22, 2008

Network operational!!

August 14, 2008...the Research and Education network connection between the US and Pakistan becomes active...Packets are flowing across the connection.

We still have some work to do with the routing to be certain that networks in the US and in Pakistan are getting the appropriate routing information. But, this date is the unofficial end of the first phase (network construction phase) of the project. There will be an official "ribbon cutting" sometime in October between officials in the US and in Pakistan. Date TDB.

Now on to the second phase (and most important phase), encouraging and publicizing the use of the network in increasing and supporting research and education collaborations between the US and Pakistan.

Sidenote - You may have read about the terrible bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad. That was the backup hotel for me if I could not find room at the Serena. I'll take security a bit more seriously on my next visit...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Contracts signed!!!

Well, my optimism from my last post (in April!!) was a bit misplaced. It has taken until today, July 3, to get a signed contract for the circuit between Singapore and Karachi which will officially provide the Pakistan R/E connection to the US and the global research and education community.

There is no particular blame to be placed for the delay. Rather, it is probably my naive nature for not anticipating the problems in dealing with 3 sets of lawyers, a government and a university.

But, that is all history now and we have a tentative circuit delivery window of August 1-15.

I hope to have more posts with additional information about the circuit and the applications running over the circuit soon.

But, right now, I am celebrating!!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Next steps...

So, you might ask, what are the next steps for this Pakistan-US network connection...

Current status...
I think my visit to Pakistan was a success. The launch event was well-attended. The workshop following the event raised lots of good questions and encouraged discussion. I understand much more about the challenges many Pakistan universities face and how (and how not) this network connection can fit into their educational plans. The event seems to gotten publicity in Pakistan. A Google search on "nsf hec pakistan network connection" shows articles in 6 newspapers about the inauguration and workshop.

Next steps...
We hope to have the network connection up and operational about June 1. That seems quite possible. There is interest in Pakistan (and I believe in the US) in holding a joint HEC-NSF high definition video conference event between Dr. Atta and Dr. Bement to celebrate the connection actually passing traffic. In addition to the VC, we would hope to have some sort on "inaugural application" in operation over the connection between the US and Pakistan. But, those details remain to be worked out.

After the connection comes up, planning will begin for a US-Pakistan workshop on the advanced collaborative use of the connection. The workshop will highlight 3-4 application areas of current or potential collaborations and focus on the role of high performance networking between the two countries in enhancing/beginning these collaborations.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Airline delays...surely not...

Day 6 – returning home…airline delays…who would have thought

I am ready to return home!! I miss my family and I miss Bloomington. It will be a long day today (leave Islamabad 8am Friday April 12 [11pm Thursday April in Bloomington] and arrive at 9pm Friday in Indy…home in Bloomington by 11pm Friday 12-April…about a 24 hour trip….

The day began with a quick trip to the airport…but that was the only quick thing so far…airport security in Islamabad…slow and not very organized. It took 45 minutes to get from the front of the airport to the departure lounge. Not so efficient and very frustrating. Also, I had forgotten that many people are “moving” to the US or wherever and using their luggage to facilitate that…It was not unusual to see a family with 5 “bags” that must have weight 100 lbs each. What a congested nightmare…

The flight finally got off the ground about 20 minutes late. This will make my connection in London a bit tight. But, hopefully there will be no problems.

No problems….ha, ha…

My flight into London was late, so I dashed off the plane and hurried through security and passport control and on to….nothing….there was no evidence of a Northwest Airlines flight to anywhere in the Heathrow airport. Just was beginning to panic the friendly British Airways person said…”Check out the KLM transfer desk”. KLM knew what I was talking about and directed me to the correct place.

Of course, the NWA flight was late….90 minutes late departing London to be exact. So, my 120 minute connection in Minneapolis, allowing me to get home, was now 30 minutes. I got off the plane in Minneapolis at 6:30pm with 40 minutes to make my 7:10pm flight to Indianapolis. Scurry, scurry, scurry….

First stop, passport control…wonderful…no lines, I walk right up to a desk with a big smile on my face, the smiling guy behind the desk chats me up a bit and then utters the fateful phrase no one wants to hear…”Supervisor to Lane 12”. So, I got grilled about my travels to Pakistan for about 10 minutes by the supervisor. He was very friendly and I am not complaining. Good, careful security is necessary and important. But, I was really, really getting nervous about making my flight, then final one to Indianapolis that day….

Bottom line is…I did make my flight by running…last person to board…

But, that flight was delayed also…so, I arrived in Indy about 10:15pm and in Bloomington about 11:30pm….yawn…

Day 5 (Last day in Pakistan)

Day 5 (Last day in Pakistan)

I had a meeting with some staff from the US Embassy this morning. They seemed interested and helpful…but I am just a visitor and they are here permanently. So they have a different way of thinking about and viewing things…They know how slowly things can work in Pakistan and how bureaucratic things can be… probably a good counterweight to my enthusiasm….

Oddly enough, one of the Embassy employees knew Brad Wheeler from previous School of Business work together. Pretty funny to go halfway around the world and have a meeting about higher educations in Pakistan and have the first question be, “I see you are from Indiana University. Do you know Brad Wheeler?” Small world…

I had an afternoon meeting at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). They already have some international partnership and would like to use this connection to leverage their existing relationships and create new ones. They seem well funded and committed. We will see…

I visited the Pakistan Museum of Natural History on Thursday afternoon. It was very interesting. You get a better sense of how Pakistan is really composed of a number of different peoples from South Asia (Iran, China, and Southren Russia) and how different Pakistan is culturally from south to north and east to west.

I have been feeling a little sick. Not so good given that I will be flying for 20+ hours tomorrow. I will be careful what I eat and I am sure it will be fine. I hope to sleep much of the way…

A delightful 4:30am wake-up call…and then off…

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Slow news day in Pakistan...


Things to think about from Pakistan

Here are some things I have been thinking about that don't lend themselves to blogging...IMHO at least...

I wonder what it is like to work and live in a religious culture like Pakistan. None of the people I met with and worked with seem very religious...but religion is obviously a huge part of this country, in all aspects.

At first women being covered seemed odd and out of place. Now it seems very normal, after only 4 days. In Islamabad, the women all wear pants and many wear traditional clothes and cover their heads. In the country, all women i saw were covered, most in what appeared to be sheets of interesting colors. But, some were wearing a burqa. I wonder how/if men think about women differently when all they can see is their face or head/shoulders.

My speech....yawn....

Williams Remarks at HEC meeting in Islamabad

Thank you Dr. Naqvi…

It is an honor and a privilege to address this distinguished group.

I would like to begin my short remarks with a quote.

The US inventor and diplomat Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”. We are here today to celebrate an investment in knowledge on the part of the US National Science Foundation and the Pakistan Higher Education Commission.

For me and for many people here today, this Workshop represents a major milestone in the course of our project to enhance science and technology collaborations between the US and Pakistan. As a number of you know, this project had its origins in the US-Pakistan Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology lead by Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman of the HEC and Dr. Arden Bement of the NSF.

One objective that originated in that meeting is, now quoting directly from the report…“introduction of high speed connectivity between the two countries”. Today we announce a very significant step toward meeting that objective.

However, one point needs to be made clearly. This is a beginning, not an end. The primary objective of the Joint Committee Meeting was to enhance collaborations between US and Pakistan science and technology efforts. This network connection is an important mechanism for enhancing those collaborations. But, it is only a mechanism. It is now our responsibility to use this mechanism, this network connection, as a tool to enhance Pakistan-US science and technology activity.

As we will see later in this Workshop, the areas of scientific collaboration between the US and Pakistan are many and varied. They range from studying the impact of climate change on glaciers to cooperation in nanotechnology to trauma and injury research to research in construction products and cement. All of these areas will benefit from this new network connection.

This connection will enable high speed transfer of medical images between countries. It will facilitate sharing of medical and research databases and publications. It will allow research groups separated by half a world to communicate easily via video conference and to use the newest of collaborative tools. It will facilitate sharing of the best of US science and medical research with the best of Pakistani science and medical research.

The technology for making this network connection between the US and Pakistan is well known. The real success of our project will be measured based on the success of the science and technology collaborations enabled and enhanced by this connection. That is the goal toward which we strive.

I would like to conclude my remarks with a second quote that may be familiar to you… “With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.” Of course, that is Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Thank you again for inviting me to Pakistan and for hosting this dedication. And, special thanks to all my colleagues in the HEC, whose hard work has made this network connection possible.

Day 4 - Network Dedication at the HEC

This was Network Dedication Day at the HEC. There were about 75 university administrators and faculty members in Islamabad at the HEC and about the same number on video. The ceremony was lead by Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, Chairman of the HEC. My part of the dedication was quite small. I'll post my speech in another entry. I think that part went well. I think IU captured this part on video.

The second part of the dedication was a workshop on the description and capabilities of this new network connection. This was all me interacting with the audience. This seemed to go well also. Some universities have a good idea of how this new capability can be used...others not so much.

Following the workshop I spent 15 minutes with Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman. He is a very dynamic leader. He fulfills his role as Chairman of the HEC and also edits journals in his academic field (Chemistry) and continues to have graduate students.

One funny event happened during the meeting...we were talking and there was a huge explosion (loud noise) . Dr. Rahman was quiet for a moment...then smiled and said, "Just a tire...not a bomb.....I sirens...". The conversation (which was very interesting) continued...

Tomorrow...meeting with some staff from the Embassy in the morning, with the National University of Science and Technology in the afternoon...then packing and getting ready for a 20 hour plane ride home....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 3

Day 3

Today was a long and interesting day. We went to Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) in Topi in the North West Frontier Provinces about 100 kilometers from Islamabad. This gave me a chance to see a bit of the Pakistan countryside. Part of the way the roads were excellent (high speed motorway). But, for at least half the journey we traveled over narrow roads, sometimes bottoming out our car (wrong choice of vehicle).

Even a short distance out of Islamabad, there is a significant change in the country. Fewer cars, more things being transported via horse and donkey carts. Goats and cattle (big water buffalo, not little baby cows) graze near the road and sometimes on it. Almost all women are covered, so much so that it becomes not unusual to see. People are moving about, dong their business. But, it is a developing country business…lots of physical labor, many people walking. In some places the road narrowed to a single lane occupied by carts, people and goats. You just wait your turn to go forward. I was a little nervous, but people were very friendly (even when we got lost…sigh…)

The visit to GIKI was excellent. I believe they will be very receptive to our new network connection. But, they are quite separated from central Pakistan (the entire university is self-contained). This was a good visit.

We next visited the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) back in Islamabad. It was on the way from GIKI to NUST that we got lost in the North West Frontier area…

NUST will be a huge university complex in Islamabad. Pakistan is combining several separate organizations. The campus itself will be about the size of IUB. But, it is all being constructed now…a pretty amazing (and expensive) undertaking. The NUST faculty have a number of collaborations with US investigators and a quite knowledgeable and receptive.

The last stop of a long day was the Shifa International Medical College. This is a medical school associated with a large hospital in downtown Islamabad. They were less certain how this new network connection would benefit them. My lack of medical research knowledge made our discussions difficult. I will talk with my NIH contact when I return to the US.

That was it….long day….I am tired….

Plans for Day 4

Wednesday is the day of the big kickoff event. It will be broadcast via VC in Pakistan and hopefully, Steve Egyhazi will be able to capture the first part of the ceremony (speeches and dedication and such) and create a web/podcast file at UITS.

After the morning speeches, the workshop in the afternoon will have 2 parts….Part #1 – a simple explanation of the network connection intended for the non-engineering attendees. Then we will have lunch. Then Part #2 will be more detailed and interactive for universities and research groups who might make immediate use of the connection (the more clueful…) I have my remarks prepared for both sessions and it should be pretty straight forward.

Faisal Mosque from Daman-e-Koh road

My last post did not have both pictures I here is at spearate picture of the Faisal Mosque (not my picture....full disclsure)

Dinner Day 3

Islamabad at night

This was pretty amazing and deserves its own section.. Three of my Pakistani friends took me to Pir Sohawa (Pir Sohwa) in Daman-e-Koh for dinner. It was an amazing steep dirve up from Islamabad into the Margalla Hills. On the way to the top (a windy 45 minute drive along a narrow, congested road) you can get great views of Islamabad, including the Faisal Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world.. We had a great dinner and enjoyed the wonderful view of Islamabad and then headed home. Day 4 and my big speech and Workshop next. I’ll try to post a couple pictures on this blog. But, if I can’t (being the relatively new blogger) you can Google Pri Sohawa and the Faisal Mosque and check out the amazing images.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pakistan Day 2

In Pakistan the steering is on the right side of the car and they drive on the left side of the road. That is exactly the opposite of the US. It takes some time to get used to as a rider...I cannot image how complicated it is as a driver. And, the drivers and the roads take a bit of getting used to also...

Day2 began at 3am...sigh...not unexpected, but not what I had hoped for after taking a sleeping pill at 10pm. Oh, well.....It is now about 7pm and I am exhausted and hopeful of better sleep tonight...

My meetings at the HEC, Pakistan-NIH, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences and with PTCL (the network carrier) all seemed to go well. People understand that with this new high performance connection they can do things faster. But, it is hard to get them to think about doing totally new things. Of course, that is a problem in general.

Tomorrow will be another long day (7am departure...who knows exactly when I will return). But, I sense that yesterday was a success and am hopeful about tomorrow. At least I will get to see a bit of northern Pakistan as we are going to Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) tomorrow. Hence the 7am departure.

Now...maybe a bit to eat....then certainly to bed....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

TV sports...

Unfortunately, I checked the basketball scores before I turned on the TV, so it was anticlimactic to see the UCLA-Memphis game on TV. But, nice to have something to watch at the gym during my workout.

But, what is the deal with cricket. That is all over the TV here and I cannot figure out even who is ahead. One team is up by 154...but is that good?

I guess since cricket seems so popular I should at least visit Wikipedia and try to learn more about the game...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pakistan Day 1

Travel from Indianapolis to Islamabad was actually uneventful, except for being long...(1 hour to Minneapolis, 8 hours to London, a 6 hour layover in Heathrow...sigh...and 8 hours to Islamabad.

It is startling cool in Islamabad (50s this morning when I arrived). My travel for the airport to the Serena Hotel was also uneventful. Not much to report about any part of Pakistan yet...

I am going to take a nap now, then maybe catch a workout and look around the hotel.

My meetings begin tomorrow.

Side note - Security is a concern here, as you might expect. When you arrive at the hotel in a taxi (selected by the Serena) you are stopped at an outer security barrier. There guards search the taxi, under the hood and in the trunk and then they transfer you (bags and all) to another car (based at the Serena) for the 100 meter final trip to the front of the hotel, where you and your bags go through security...again...quite impressive...