The 10TH International Workshop on Algorithms and Computation (WALCOM) Reminiscences of Nepal Visit

The 10TH International Workshop on Algorithms and Computation (WALCOM), 2016, was hosted in Nepal at the Asian Institute of Technology and Management (AITM) during 29-31 March 2016. I have travelled to many countries for my professional deliberations, but this is the first time that I visited the beautiful country Nepal, although my good friend from AIT Computer Science 1982 classmate Pramod Pradhan – Board Director at AITM, had repeatedly invited me to visit Nepal several times over last three decades. Thanks to Prof. Md. Saidur Rahman, my talented colleague and a dedicated researcher now at Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology, who availed me of this opportunity to travel to Nepal for participation in this workshop as the Co-Chair of Program Committee along with Professor Rossella Petreschi of Italy. Proceedings of WALCOM 2016 has been published by Springer in its Lecture Notes in Computer Science, and some special issues are also expected to appear in reputed journals.

For WALCOM 2016, we expected 60 to 70 participants of various countries from Asia and other continents of the world, since Nepal is a tourist destination for global tourists. From the beginning of my travel, I became very alert and careful about time since Professor Md Saidur Rahman maintains Japanese timeliness. We reached airport 3 hours before the scheduled 1-pm flight to Kathmandu on 27TH March Sunday.

When we boarded the aircraft, I got really upset to see that the flight was almost empty. I thought how the Bangladesh Biman as well as our country Bangladesh could earn money if there were a good number of passengers on this flight. Once I read in a national newspaper, the airlines business could be our highest revenue agency. Many small Arab countries have national airlines carrying passengers around the world and are making big money. Bangladesh, with such a big population, whose million people are employed abroad, send remittances and travel around these countries on a regular basis, is faced with such a mismanagement of the country’s national airline! Anyway, when our aircraft was preparing for landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, the Captain announced that we could not land since visibility was only 2000 meters much less than the desirable 3000 meters required for safe landing. So the aircraft kept on revolving around the Kathmandu Valley for almost 1 hour and finally we landed at the TIA.

Since 2007, WALCOM workshops were organized by Bangladesh and India in turns. Prof. Saidur Rahman, who envisioned and is committed to making this workshop to be world-class but at low cost, also expects to organise this workshop in this region most of the time to provide international experience to academicians and researchers from this region. Hence we thought of conducting this workshop in Nepal, which is an alluring destination, drawing international tourists from all over the region and many developed countries. So when I called my AIT classmate Pramod for this purpose, he immediately accepted to host the 10TH WALCOM 2016 in Nepal. We were all happy and excited to visit Nepal, but then just a few weeks later there came the two big Earthquakes in April-May 2015 which totally devastated this small country. Not only that, this tiny country also had to face severe blockades of various types, lack of electricity, and lack of gasoline and cooking gas, which is still continuing.

Nepalese are very resilient people and bearing all these sufferings in silence and peaceful manner. Even in the capital city, there are hours of regular blackouts, gasoline shortage, a couple of hundred motorbikes queuing for gasoline. Nepal is a land locked country, with land and mountains all around, where the recent blockade has made people’s life miserable. Thank goodness, we have the Bay of Bengal. We were not aware of this miserable situation until arriving there since our Nepalese friend didn’t tell us anything. When we arrived in Nepal, we found, there is a ban on the import of goods. Products cannot be imported from any country. Poor people can hardly supress but not express their anger. Although the current situation brings unprecedented discomfort to the people ignoring humanity and compassion from all points of view, Nepal sees rays of hope in China’s friendship which has understood Nepal’s difficulties and struggle to rise from Earthquakes’ devastation and has expanded trade and transit relations over the rugged hills and mountains in between their borders.

However, despite all these, when we arrived at the venue of the workshop, I was greatly impressed. Judging from the campus outlook of the Asian Institute of Technology and Management, it is really built for study, research and academic environment. There is a beautiful open large space in the middle of the building surrounded by all offices, classrooms and labs. More beautiful and charming were people and their friendliness to all our guests. Hospitality was at its peak. Even the hotel people gave their best to make us feel comfortable in spite of unsurmountable shortcomings due to power shortage. We could also enjoy the beauty of the city and the Himalayas from the top of building. The auditorium was just fit for the workshop, meals were excellent and well managed by hotel management course students under the supervision of teachers. All participants, as well as academicians and researchers from developed countries, loudly praised the service, entertainment, hearty welcome by everyone of the institute where Prof. Sriram Bhagut Mathe is the Executive Chairperson, who is also the Chair of WALCOM 2016 Advisory Committee. I must fall short in I do not name Usha Bhabiji, Pramod’s wife, to take the trouble of ensuring our visit to her residence and help my wife see around Kathmandu.

We had the opportunity to visit Kathmandu University, in Dhulikhel, about 30 kilometres east of the capital Kathmandu. We were impressed to know its establishment as this is an autonomous, non-profit, but a great place for education. Like our universities, Nepal has many academic institutions concentrated in the capital. The Kathmandu University, founded in 1991, has a guest house for foreign university professors and halls for foreign students under exchange programs to stay and enjoy a very pleasant view of the mountains and hilly terrains. This town also suffered severe damages by earthquakes. I went to the places where the remains of the earthquakes are still scattered everywhere. Deepak Rauniar, a graduate from CSE Department, BUET and CEO of Hydroelectricity Investment and Development Company, was kind enough to have visited me on a short notice and facilitated my sightseeing.

The workshop program committee professors from sixteen countries and six of the nine steering committee professors from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan and 40 researchers from different countries came to participate in the workshop, which was also attended by Dr Sohel Rahman and Mr. Iqbal Hossain besides Prof. Saidur Rahman from Bangladesh.

The 11th International Conference and Workshops on Algorithms and Computation (WALCOM 2017) will be held in Hsinchu, Taiwan during March 29-31, 2017. It will take place at the Guangfu Campus of National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. As the WALCOM workshops are taking place in regions beyond our sub-continent, Prof. Saidur Rahman – initiator of WALCOM movement – resounds it as a great success in exemplifying our knowledge-science at global level. Let the Journey of WALCOM workshops continue, with its name being pronounced again and again, and may the academicians and researchers from our region achieve international stature in coming years. Good Luck!

Mohammad Kaykobad: Professor – Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET) and Fellow – Bangladesh Academy of Sciences.