Why #Uni4Kashmir?

The rudimentary shifts dictated by the Fourth Industrial Revolution has posed newer challenges to societies across the globe. Dr Mehboob Makhdoomi, who was educated in the West and worked in the consultative educational sector, is planning a university with peoples’ cooperation to address Kashmir’s knowledge deficit. In this write-up, he explains the motives, intentions and rationale for the initiative

A photograph showing Dr Mehboob Mukhdoomi with Dean Eberly College of Business and Technology, Dr Robert C Camp, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA

Jammu and Kashmir is a politically turbocharged region where every activity is looked at with suspicion. To make it worse, there are two competing and fiercely contesting narratives that compel people, to compartmentalize those who proclaim to do ‘something’ for the people – in one bracket or the other, at the psychological level. This is not the fault of people though. We have been betrayed time and again by such ‘messiahs’, and these people speak from experience. Fortunately, it is the politicians who have hoodwinked us till now, not anyone in the name of education, which is an apolitical tool to bring social good. This is the raison d’être of this write-up.

I have dreamt of coming up with an international standard university in Kashmir. I could have done the same by accepting investors without any hassle, but I chose no owners for this project. Not that I am against privatization, but if the sole objective of such a venture is profit-making, the superlative quality that has been envisioned will surely take a hit. This is why a capitalistic model may not be germane here. One may have called it a gift from this generation to the next, but I find ‘gift’ to be a misleading term simply because it is not; we owe it to them.

2 Key Reasons

There are two reasons why I am determined to go for it, taking a personal risk.

One, having worked as a quality specialist of higher education overseas for the past seven years and studied at some of the best universities in the world, I clearly see that years of education that our teachers and students work so hard for is not going to fetch them what they expect. I say this over and over again that the jobs our students are being trained to do have either become or will become extinct in a few years. The entire landscape of education has metamorphosed. It is painful to see these smart students moving towards a dead-end in herds.

Two, for some reason, money seems to be only the means of sustenance, not a success parameter. The true gratification that one could derive is from giving, not taking. If all of us just keep piling our personal resources, where is collectivism? It is the social impact that we should strive to create. To think about ourselves and our children is important, but to limit our lives just to that, tantamount to merely being animals.

World Economic Forum (WEF) says 75 million jobs will be displaced from 2018 to 2023 but the rapid evolutions of machines and algorithms could create 133 million new roles.

Humans are expected to rise above their basic animalistic instincts and exhibit higher consciousness. Having a higher purpose in life gives us a sense of fulfilment as we contribute to something that is bigger than us. The idea of ‘settling down’ that we teach our kids is profoundly flawed. This essentially means that we ask them to find their source of income and hang in there till they are alive like other creatures do. This is what drives many people towards thinking on a collective level, even if it is a risky path.

An Idea Of Future

Coming onto the details of the first reason, as per one World Economic Forum (WEF) report, 75 million jobs will be displaced from 2018 to 2023 but the rapid evolutions of machines and algorithms could create 133 million new roles. The skills required for these new roles are nowhere to be seen in our higher education. With an inexorable advancement of technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) that we are in, the whole scenario of the global labour market is changing- with machines and algorithms proving to be efficient alternatives to the human workforce.

I had mentioned it in one of my previous articles that according to a World Bank report, 69 per cent of the jobs in India can be replaced by automation. High-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and cloud technology are all set to drive businesses by 2022, as per WEF. One investment intention survey shows that 85 per cent of respondents said they are likely/very likely to adopt big data analytics, in the next three years.

As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, 71 per cent of total task hours were performed by humans in 2018 compared to 29 per cent by robots. Interestingly in 2022, it’s estimated that for the same tasks, only 58 per cent will be executed by humans while the machine’s share would spike up to 42 per cent.

As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, 71 per cent of total task hours were performed by humans in 2018 compared to 29 per cent by robots. Interestingly in 2022, it’s estimated that for the same tasks, only 58 per cent will be executed by humans while the machine’s share would spike up to 42 per cent. So, some of the roles that would be in high demand are AI and machine learning specialists, Big data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Information and Security Analysts, User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers, Robotics Engineers, and Blockchain Specialists. Onto the core business side, it would be the digital marketers, Social Media Specialists, roles that require human skills like Sales and Marketing professionals, Customer service, Training and development, People and Culture, and Innovation Managers.

New Market, New Roles

Some may argue that they are not into any of these fields, and that they would not be impacted by the new age technology. We must understand that the First Industrial Revolution came up with factories powered by steam; the Second Industrial Revolution was brought about by the use of electric power for mass-production; the Third used electronic and Information Technology to automate production; the Fourth is driven by the convergence of the digital, biological, and physical innovations. The emerging technological breakthroughs in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, the Internet of Things, Autonomous Vehicles, 3-D Printing, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Materials Science, Energy storage, Quantum computing, Big Data Analytics, Cloud computing power this revolution.

This entails that notwithstanding which field of study you want to get into, you would have to do it in light of the current trends, just the way everyone had to be computer literate during the IT revolution. If you are in finance, Fintech is the fusion you have with technology. If you are a surgeon, robotic surgery is where robotics meets your traditional skill. If you are into natural sciences, biotechnology is where the tech intervention transpires; not to talk of the fields like engineering where digitization rules the roost.

We do not simply lag behind but we are not on the right trajectory of education. We still expend our energy and finances to excel in fields which do not exist. This necessitates the advent of a disruptive institution that goes along with these disruptive technologies.

A Risk Worth Taking

Elaborating the second reason, people are so entrenched in the idea of ‘settling down’ that initiatives like ours hardly make any sense to them. To many, such ideas are so alien that it does not even register.  It is unfortunate as this is one of the main teachings of Islam. In an atmosphere, where money or politics define the world around us, it is hard for such people to digest that someone gives up his sense of security for nothing. This is not because people have not given it up before, but they did it to achieve more and more for themselves, not for others. This is where doubts or even worse, conspiracy theories seep in. The point is, conspiracy theories should also be tenable and make sense. In this case, there cannot be any political angle in making a school, college, or university. Our cause cannot be motivated by money as there is no dearth of legitimate options for us if that was the reason.

Dr Mehboob Mukhdoomi

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful feeling that everyone we wanted onboard is with us. The Higher Education Department too has shown alacrity and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us, based on merit. However, if other governmental agencies want to learn more about us, they are welcome to do that.

I find it pertinent to mention that ours is not a new project. We registered our educational trust in March 2018, and have been working since then. The universities in Malaysia and the US have also signed an MoU and Letter of Interest (LoI) respectively for the student exchange programme once we are all set. We cannot be held hostage to the past political experiences, and transferring those feelings to apolitical educational initiatives which are in our best interests, cannot be a valid argument. This belongs to all of us. We welcome everyone and need your skills to make this dream into a living reality, Insha Allah.

(Ideas expressed in this write-up are personal. Kashmir Life regrets the wrong caption of the lead photograph in its print edition.)

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