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Nepali institute runs AI schools for foreign scholars

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Kathmandu: At a time when Nepal is often described as a latecomer in technology, the arrival of foreign scholars on data, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to attend learning camps here can be the elation beyond IT sector. Information to this was shared during an AI conference organized in the federal capital, Kathmandu, on Sunday. It is NepAl Applied Mathematics and Informatics Institute (NAAMII), an organization run by youth scientists, which has been catering knowledge and skills to the foreign scholars- doing PhD in data, robotics and AI through summer, winter and spring schools. They are 11-day schools. Director at NAAMII, Dr Bishesh Khanal, informed that they had conducted four editions of such AI schools in which the AI students and students of data sciences from more than 30 countries have attended. The PhD students visit NAAMII as part of their academic study. Although NAAMII does not provide credit to them, the students are imparted world class knowledge on AI by the acclaimed national a nd international scientists. "Even the data scientists from Britain's Prime Minister's Office have applied to study AI here," he claimed. The students from the countries including China, Russia, Nigeria, Uganda and others study in the NAAMII schools paying fee. NAAMII was established in Nepal in 2018. In a question whether Nepal could prosper AI in the face of barriers ranging from lack of infrastructure to informed policy, he responded, "It's wrong to deny AI opportunities in Nepal. NAAMII's team has stood first in the global competition of the scientific research on pressing issue." Dr Khanal however demands state to augment investment in research and development, establish centre of excellence, and facilitate in creation of infrastructures eg special computer for special research. "Nepal can be rich in startups to boost national economy, for which proper policy is required," he suggested. At the event, 'AI Conference for Prosperous Nepal: Future of Work', organized jointly by Ministry of Education, S cience and Technology, The Asia Foundation, Robotic Association of Nepal, Frost Digital Ventures and AECon, other speakers also underlined the need of more investment and research for AI to leverage it to the benefit of every Nepali. 10-year vision for AI needed Head of Strategy and Managing Director at Fusemachine for South Asia, Parag Shrestha, said Nepal needs to set 10-year vision for AI. "We need to think of sovereign AI in Nepal," Shrestha said, adding that vision, policy, infrastructures, national awareness, research and development are other essentials to benefit from AI. Earlier in the inaugural of the event, Alan Turing Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, UK, Dr Sethu Vijayakumar, viewed AI can be utilized for climate change mitigation, food security and healthcare. "Data should be programmed in a way the robots respect human," he said, adding that robotics and data are not only for high tech community but also for addressing pressing challenges of present society. According to him, converting society into intelligent society is a challenge to this end at present. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Ashok Rai, had also addressed the inaugural of the conference. PM Dahal stressed that AI should be utilized for innovation and productivity. "Developed countries have given huge significance to AI and global race for it is astonishing. So, Nepal can not stay idle, but need to adopt AI and robotic technology in an informed manner," he mentioned. Emerging AI landscape in Nepal The PM reminded that government had allocated budget for the science technology and innovation fund for the ongoing fiscal year. He expressed happiness over emerging AI landscape in Nepal. "Despite opportunities, challenges of AI as impact on privacy, equality and job displacement must be taken into account," he made aware the stakeholders. Similarly, Minister Rai believed modern technology including AI could be leveraged to graduate Nepal to the status of developing countries by 2026. On the occasion, British Ambassador to Nepal, Rob Fenn, said UK is proactive and enabling environment to foster AI debate and development. "IT, in particular AI, is in priority of our assistance in Nepal," he shared, adding that AI can be used for healthcare, reduction of poverty, disaster vulnerability etc. Secretary at Education Ministry, Pramila Devi Bajracharya, informed that the conference was organized to whet debate on AI and prepare informed AI Policy. It is worth noting that Nepal has been ranked 150th out of 193 countries in the Government AI Readiness Index, 2023. Source: National News Agency Nepal