Pakistan has never truly been able to make the most of its thinkers and innovators. The government has failed to support and acknowledge them, and that is why the country remains decades behind others in technological development. Recently, a young engineer, Muhammad Ali Abbas, has developed a rather unique robot called PEEKO that helps children with autism improve their learning abilities and overcome loneliness through communication. His invention won a nationwide creative ideas competition held by the National Ideas Bank.
Unfortunately, we have seen thousands of such ideas go to waste in Pakistan. This is because when these young innovators try to further build on this they are left without the support of stakeholders. Thus, instead of expanding this into an industry that can help build the economy, the idea is repressed and might never even see the light of day. In contrast, you have multi-billion-dollar companies in the developed world such as Apple and Tesla that were built around similar ideas and a far-reaching vision. The incumbent government must realise the importance of such ideas because not only will they help in promoting development and innovation but also in understanding social responsibility. This is the need of our time: innovative, sustainable and socially responsible solutions through technological development, whether to empower the vulnerable segments of society or to fight crises such as climate change and inequality. The sooner this is realised the easier it will be to pull the country out of the quicksand it is currently trapped in.
The relevant authorities must now look to support Muhammad Ali in setting up his own tech company and urge other stakeholders to promote it. Moreover, the government should start scouting for such ideas and inventions in order to create startups that benefit the people as well as the economy. We sincerely hope that the young inventor goes on to be successful and help the plight of autistic children not only in Pakistan but around the world.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2022.