Human beings have over the millennia established themselves as the most intelligent species on the planet that has not only resulted in its survival and development but also is clearly manifested in the pace of its evolution and the intellectual growth. The wonders of S&T that seemed incredible as recently as a century ago now seem quite mundane and unremarkable. With each wonder of science becoming a norm, the frontiers of S&T expand further and further.

The space race of 1960s provided an unprecedented desire for technological supremacy among super power. However, the advances in space technology also broadened the technological horizons for the competing states benefitting the masses in all walks of life. For instance, NASA today is a source of a number of innovations that are benefitting citizens in daily lives.

The potential of S&T to solve socio-economic issues have long been recognized. Humanity is the primary beneficiary of S&T and scientific thought. Be it innovations in existing processes or methods or discovery, operationalization and mainstreaming of diseases eradicating substances, humanity’s dependence on S&T is undeniable. Smallpox was eradicated by means of an individual’s scientific thinking and experimentation and the concept of vaccination has since formed the backbone of healthcare. Polio vaccine and discovery of penicillin have improved humanity’s survival chances exponentially in last century or so. Advances in transportation and telecommunications have reduced distances at a remarkable pace in last few decades.

Such examples, leave very little doubt in the remedial character of science for individuals and societies. The globe today presents a whole spectrum of level of national and regional development as well as the distribution of important scientific resources. The nations and regions that have built and harnessed their scientific resources and invested in science are reaping due benefits and are better equipped to deal with present and future challenges. Conversely, there are those who seem to be tangled in a vicious cycle of under-development due to their inability to either recognize or adopt S&T as panacea to many of their issues. This is why even at this modern day and age, advocacy of science still remains a major point of concern for those who want to create a world with equitable resource sharing among societies, especially those relating to S&T.

One such entity is the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) that has the mission to “help create a world where all nations are at peace with one another and capable of providing a good quality of life to their populations in a sustainable way, using modern scientific and technological resources.” For over 24 years, COMSATS has remained committed to its cause and has been trying to build in member states the societies that are conscious of the role of science in alleviating poor socio-economic conditions and also to encourage sharing and pooling of resources in this connection. Collaborations, networking and synergies being established in the North and the South aide the organization’s efforts towards a better world through S&T.

COMSATS’ programs in member states, including Pakistan are testimonials of its due diligence to its cause. Established in 1994, COMSATS now stands 27 member states and twenty-two network member strong. The organization’s programmes have benefitted these resource challenged countries in a number of fields relevant to their national and social needs.

Major source of COMSATS’ scientific and technological strength lies in its Network of International S&T Centres of Excellence that contribute in a number of ways in facilitating the organization’s efforts for the socio-economic uplift of the member countries. The programmes are formulated respecting social, economic and environmental aspects hence remaining true to the principles of sustainable development. Special attention is given to build indigenous capacity and competence in the emerging sciences and technologies and necessary support is rendered to the technological revolutions in the areas of education, health, and energy.

The thematic areas selected in close consultation with the Member States and Centres of Excellence are: Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); Internet Security; Natural Products Sciences; Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology; Climate Change and Environmental Protection; Nanotechnology; Materials Science; Mathematical Modeling; Construction Materials; Renewable Energies; Science Diplomacy; and S&T Policy and National Innovation Systems.

In Pakistan specifically, COMSATS’ three remarkable initiatives have gained recognition for all the right reasons over the years. A major reason was the need based and humanitarian approach driving these initiatives. Realizing that there was no Internet related infrastructure in Pakistan, the organization established COMSATS Internet Services (CIS) in 1996, which is currently providing services to 19 major cities of the country. With regional lead in ICTs, CIS is offering social service to the country by facilitating COMSATS’ Telehealth (CTH) Programme that started in 2001. Subsequently, patients at the tele-health clinics established in Skardu and Zhob were provided specialist medical consultations in Dermatology, General Medicine and Gastroenterology, with the help of audio-visual and peripheral tools. Another project of CTH is currently providing outpatient facilities and capacity-building of health professionals through telehealth clinics located in Mansehra, Sawabi, Mardan, Multan, Quetta and Gawadar. More than 55000 online consultations have been carried out through telehealth system.

In 1998, after due assessment of human resource need in the country from the experience of then nascent CIS, COMSAT University Islamabad (CUI) was established as one of its kind institute, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT). With phenomenal growth in a short span of time, the University stands tall as a public sector HEI with 7 campuses in Pakistan. The University offers merit, need-based educational funding as well as accommodates a number of foreign students from COMSATS member states and other countries on scholarships.

Bilateral and multilateral joint research under COMSATS International Thematic Research Groups (ITRGs) brings together scientists and experts belonging to various developing countries to conduct research in key areas of development with bearing on the well-being of masses. These include: information and communication technologies; agriculture, food security and biotechnology; natural products sciences; renewable energy; mathematical modeling; and climate change and environmental protection. Apart from joint research projects, COMSATS’ ITRG programme provides a platform for expert-exchange and sharing of laboratory resources among the member institutions. Moreover, opportunities of short-term trainings are provided to the group members in order to build their capacity in the target area and enable them to perform their research assignments more effectively.

COMSATS has been actively supporting the capacity building of the developing countries. More than 300 capacity building events have been organized in various member countries in the fields such as agriculture and food security, climate change, cyber security, repair and maintenance of scientific instruments, industrial research, health, ICTs, renewable energy, etc. Various policy dialogues have also been organized by the organization to promote to policy makers S&T as a tool for development, to facilitate of its adoption for benefit of all.

With horizons fast expanding towards North and firmly grounded in its devotion to development of the South, COMSATS sets an excellent example of extending the gains possible from S&T and R&D equitably throughout the globe. As it is rightly said that science is a common heritage of mankind – and so should be its gains.


By Web Team

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