“Big Data for National Security: A Case of Pakistan”
May 11, 2022
The Arms Control & Disarmament Centre (ACDC) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organised a Webinar on “Big Data for National Security: A Case of Pakistan” on May 11, 2022. Speakers included Dr Muhammad Ali Ismail, Principle Investigator, National Center of Big Data & Cloud Computing (NCBC), Karachi, Dr Hussain Nadim, Executive Director (C&R), Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Ms Aamna Rafiq, Research Associate ACDC-ISSI.
In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General ISSI, said that big data refers to a collection of data that is enormous and comes at you with great speed. Big data needs to be managed and analysed for it to be useful. This data explosion is touching every aspect of life human security, finance, banking and agricultural sector and is also playing a big part in the technological race between the US and China. Pakistan needs to be aware of how big data can help or undermine our national security.
Earlier in his introductory remarks, Malik Qasim Mustafa, Director ACDC, said that big data analytics is positively transforming the ways of doing business, trade, governance, politics, communications and social services. However, its misuse can equally exacerbate existing national security threats and can create new and unpredictable ones.
Dr Muhammad Ali Ismail spoke on “Big Data for Human Security in Pakistan.” He said that National Center in Big data and cloud computing’s objective was to provide a platform for the development and deployment of cutting edge solutions related to big data using open source tools. The centre is working on astrophysics, genomics, tsunami modelling and traffic modelling. Genomics will help understand the biology behind genetic abnormalities to train human resources for the processing of next-generation sequencing data. The astrophysics lab is working on the classification of celestial objects, and simulation of the observable universe using data from SUPARCO and international sources. Tsunami modelling is working on a digital elevation model for major cities along with coastal areas. Traffic modelling is working on traffic flow modelling and simulation.
Dr Hussain Nadim presented his views on “Big Data Analytics and Information Warfare in Pakistan.” He talked about how data can be used to decipher patterns of suicide bombing and identify what people are at risk of radicalisation. He said that compared to 30 years ago now we have the data but not the ability to process it. There are over 40 million social media users alone in Pakistan and are projected to have 80 million social media users in the coming years. These people are creating narratives as opposed to the state. The state cannot be in the fifth generation of warfare. The information warfare domain has become more complicated. There may be billions of users tweeting in India or elsewhere about Pakistan. Information warfare is not new but what has changed is the speed of data. The huge data available can be used to map the behaviour of a nation, leaders and individuals. It can also be misused. State institutions are fighting fifth generation warfare with 3rd generation tools. Pakistan needs to invest in managing and regulating big data.
While expressing her views on “Building National Framework for Big Data: The Way Forward for Pakistan,” Ms Aamna Rafiq, Research Associate ACDC-ISSI, said that Pakistan is facing major challenges on insufficient and fragmented legislative and policy and technical frameworks on the big data. The national data ecosystem is suffering due to the absence of effective institutional and technical coordination on data partnerships between the government and other relevant stakeholders.
The remarks by speakers were followed by a robust discussion and question-answer session.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG ISSI, stated that so far data has been kept in physical form but now it is stored and used in virtual space. This is helping in many fields like national security, health, education and industry. However, there is potential for its misuse. There is a need to manage and eliminate and regulate the malicious use of data in Pakistan and at the international level.