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ACU Summer School 2015

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ACU Summer School 2015 by Muneera Nizam Sajwani

The 5th Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Summer School was held in Ontario, Canada from 15th August 2015 till 23rd August 2015. Co-hosted by three Ontario universities, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Western University, the Summer School was an excellent mix of workshops, keynote lectures and field trips, apart from the interactions and dialogues among the 18 participants from across the 14 different Commonwealth countries belonging to different age groups and a spectrum of occupations and courses of study. I, Muneera Nizam from IBA and Abdullah Ijaz from Nust, Islamabad were the only delegates representing South Asia at the Summer School.

'Big Data and the Digital Divide' The theme for the 5th Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Summer School aptly brought to light one of the largest and most pressing issues facing the world today. World today is increasingly interdependent and intertwined, and data presents both challenges and opportunities. Challenges include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy.

During time in Ontario, we attended lectures by renowned professors and professionals. Speakers included University of Waterloo professors. In addition, UWaterloo alumni Mark Damm, CEO of Fuseforward Group, and Devika Madalli of the Indian Statistical Institute, were amongst the renowned speakers at the conference.

We were placed in groups and were given the challenge of coming up with a practical solution to a real world problem which can be solved tapping the potential of big data. By the end of the week, the groups had designed and presented a poster. My group comprising of four members presented on the topic 'Improving Access to Antiretroviral Drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa: Big Data Perspective'. We were declared the winners of the poster project competition on the gala dinner night. As a reward our work will be features in the next Bulletin issue of ACU.

Apart from sessions and project work we also worked with Velocity, the leading entrepreneurship program at the University of Waterloo. Summer school included a day long camping at Laurel Creek in Waterloo, Ontario with outside classroom studying experience. From exploring the cities of Waterloo, London and Toronto to campus tours of the three universities to living in different dorms and immense amount of travelling in just nine days, summer school was surely the best life experience.

The ACUSS15 came to an end with a formal gala dinner at Great Hall, Western University. It included farewell notes from all three university international exchange directors, the award ceremony and certificate distribution. The next day was what all delegates had been impatiently waiting for since day one, the visit to the world famous Niagara Falls. One could only dream of going to see the breath taking view of the falls. Thus this marked the end of the exhilarating and enriching journey followed by delegates bidding farewell to each other.

Everyone took back with them a deeper understanding of the potential of big data, the knowledge that despite coming from different cultures, societies and countries, the problems are common; and of course, the valuable interactions with one another. Excellently organized by the ACU and universities in Ontario, the ACUSS15 was a satisfying and fulfilling experience to have been a part of, and one hopes that all the attendees will seriously pursue it further.

Winning Poster