Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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29-12-2004 : Hyderabad
Statistics and its multi-dimensions

I am indeed delighted to participate in the inauguration of the International Conference on the Future of Statistical Theory, Practice and Education. When I see Prof C R Rao, I remember the Cramer-Rao bound. I greet him. I am also particularly happy to see that the Presidents of the two most prestigious statistical associations, the American Statistical Association (ASA) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) along with the President of the newly formed International Indian Statistical Association are present at this conference. I greet the organizers of this Conference for bringing this event to India and creating a forum for exchange of ideas and research findings amongst the participants. I would suggest one of the topics the conference to discuss is, the role of statistics in the field of modern cryptography particularly remembering the statement ?breaking the unbreakable?. My topic for discussion in today?s conference is Statistics and its multi-dimensions.


Evaluation of System Reliability

Statisticians remind me of the quality and reliability groups of ISRO and DRDO during the period of 70?s to 2000. I used to ask the quality and reliability groups (mostly mathematicians) to closely work with the sub-systems and integration teams from design, development, static tests and flight tests, while the launch vehicles and missiles were being prepared for the missions. They used to be active partners in all the static tests, Waiver Board, Failure Analysis Board, Launch Readiness Board, Launch Authorization Board and Post Flight Analysis Board of all missions. Based on their experience and the mathematical modeling of the system under test, I used to ask them about the theoretical reliability which they had worked out for a particular mission. Many times they used to say that the theoretical reliability was around 0.5 or 0.6. Though this was not considered to be fully adequate for near 100% success in the mission, I used to consult them on how to improve the reliability factor. Always we will be looking for critical subsystems which need to be built with high reliability out of the many sub-systems. Based on the innovative improvements suggested, I used to give conditional clearance for the launch. The correlation between the prediction and the actual performance of the mission was excellent. The statisticians always exhibited an innate capability to improve the confidence from mission to mission based on the observations and knowledge gained from the designers and test results of the sub-systems. Whenever the experts in statistics participate in the task or programme in the mission mode, their understanding of the interaction between the subsystems increases. This enhanced understanding has helped the statisticians to evolve better models for predicting the reliability of the mission. The statisticians provide very useful performance data to the designers by providing silent support in all complex missions. Spacecraft reliability model became so useful that given the space craft characteristics including the weight of the fuel carried and the perigee and apogee position after the placement of the spacecraft in the orbit, the reliability team was able to preciously predict the life of the spacecraft in the earth orbit with certain bounds. This has been validated in several missions. Today ISRO and DRDO have got proven well-tested reliability models. Evolution of the reliability model is the unique contribution of the statisticians.


Future of Statistical Theory

In a large country like India, making financial policies and taxation policies are very complex. This involves handling large volume of data of uncertain nature and modeling on the basis of observed data. Similar are the issues related to modeling of the Indian weather. A nationally proven and validated model for economic dynamics for the country is the vital need.

India has a tradition of having produced some of the brightest and highly acclaimed world class scientists particularly in the field of statistical theory. Names of Mahalanobis, CR Rao are the great examples of seminal contributions by India.


Statistics in Bio-informatics

Statistics plays a major role in every aspect of human life ? individuals, corporate and the governments are all the end users of the advances that have been made in statistics. Government?s planning owes a lot to the use of statistics which is probably the first avatar of mathematics applied to real world problems. Of late, besides the traditional applications of statistics in modeling in governance, prediction and analysis of election results and weather forecasting and modeling of epidemics, statistics has found applications in many new and emerging areas. With the advances made in the human genome project and in the design of drugs, bio-informatics has become a hot field for pursuit by the scientists. Bio-informatics is also an area that encompasses not just the health and medicine area but also ecology and agriculture which are vital for a developing nation like India. Bio-informatics deals with besides deterministic calculations, a large quantity of data with varying levels of uncertainty. The bio-informatics models are often probabilistic and require the large power of statistical theory to comprehend the data into knowledge and possibly products that will enhance the quality of life of humans and plants.


Recent development in biotechnology

The challenge next to the Human Genome project will be the greater challenge that is Proteomics. I suggest the Indian biomedical community to take the initiative to become a working partner in the proteomics project of gene characterization. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins expressed by the genome of a cell. It is the logical extension of genomics. Proteomics helps to understand basic biological processes critical to normal cellular functions as well as to the development of diseases. It identifies the essential components of these processes and exploits these components as targets in the development of new methods to prevent or treat diseases. The national programme on proteomics has to be accelerated with partnership from industries, Statisticians and R & D laboratories. I would suggest that this should be pursued as a mission mode project.


Statistics in six sigma and industrial productivity

India has to be internationally competitive in the development of software products in the manufacturing sector such as automobiles and in the Pharma industry. When you are competing in the world market, quality and innovation become the main thrust and are the only attributes that will make brand India an accepted one across the globe. The qualities of the product and the industrial productivity have to be increased through the six-sigma modeling and through very solid design of the processes involved. When one is looking at one failure in a million kind of reliability, without increasing unduly the cost of production, it will call for modeling of the process so that at every point of the production cycle the quality can be controlled and the end product reliability can be accurately estimated. This is where statistics can contribute a very pivotal role in the industry today.


Statistics and data mining

When the area of data base management started, the world was constrained by the available disk storage facilities. This was the world which witnessed the Y2K problem which mainly arose from the desire of the designers to save on the expensive disk storage. Today, while the computer power doubles every eighteen months, the disk storage is doubling every nine months. This has brought in a completely different paradigm in computing which offers unlimited storage capability at affordable cost. In this world of abundant storage, one is not constrained to look at the computer as a mere data base engine but more importantly an engine which can mine knowledge out of the data which is stored in the computer as well as by the pattern of how the data grows and accessed through the power of statistics. This is particularly important for India since data mining is an area, wherein the computer power is used to move up the information chain and hence the value chain which converts mere data to knowledge, and leads to innovation.


Pioneering work of Mahalanobis

One could say that if Europe is the mother of the differential calculus based deterministic analysis; India could well be called the mother of statistics. When I think of the names in Statistics, I am immediately reminded of P C Mahalanobis who founded the Indian statistical Institute in December 1931 and persuaded many young physicists and mathematicians to join the institute.

Mahalanobis believed that statistics should be integral part of national planning. He was aware of the national problems and national resources. He took a keen interest and played a key role in formulating India?s Second Five Year Plan based on the four-sector model developed by him. He made sectoral allocations for employment, capital investment and increment in national income and then split them into detailed targets. The need for planning in the initial stages of national development is still acknowledged and Mahalanobis?s contribution to Indian national planning continues to be held in high esteem by economists. This Mahalanobis model must be revisited in the modern day digital economy, where the economy is dependent on the knowledge capital and small start-ups make up the large part of the economy.


Statistics for Medicare

Now I would like to discuss some of the areas where statistics can be applied to determine a solution to long-standing issues. Recently, I was attending a conference of Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgeons at Delhi. In that conference it was observed that the occurrence of coronary artery diseases in India is taking place between the age group of 35 and 55, whereas in the western world, it generally occurs after 55 or 60. It is also found that the occurrence of cardiovascular cases is 4% in rural area as against the 10% found in big cities in India. Whereas the world statistics says that the incidence is only 3 to 4%. It is also reported that Indians are genetically three times more vulnerable to heart diseases wherever they are, than Americans and Europeans. My Doctor friends say, Rheumatic heart disease, which leads to heart valve destruction, among Indian community needs special attention. These are fertile areas where statistical experts can work with clinical data of the medical community and provide vital direction for seeking a corrective measure for this situation. I was told that the statisticians? worldwide are concentrating on identifying genes and estimating their interactions with environmental parameters that underlie cardiovascular diseases. I would like the statistician team to interact with renowned surgeons and cardiologists to generate reliable data for carrying out cardio-vascular disease pattern in India.


Simulation of mega projects

Another area of national importance where the statisticians can help is in the Networking of river project. The plan of action including the ecological enhancement plan for executing the project is under progress. This action will eliminate the periodical problem of drought and flood experienced in a number of river basins. This is an important mission from both water and power security. The study team is in the process of preparing the total plan for the nation. Statisticians can provide useful inputs on the macro-economic impact of the Networking of river projects. Also they can validate the ecological enhancement plan through the study of existing terrain through the analysis of satellite pictures. This will be a very useful input for implementing this mega mission. Statistical model for the networking of rivers connecting the rainfall and snow measurements and the ground porosity for the water run off model is a great mission for the statisticians.


Economic Connectivity for PURA

Providing Urban facilities in Rural Areas (PURA) consisting of four connectivities: physical, electronic, knowledge leads to economic connectivity which enhances the prosperity of clusters of villages in the rural areas. The economic connectivity will generate a market and the production establishments for servicing the market. The PURA has all the dimensions to become a business enterprise, which has global dimensions but operating in every nook and corner of our country.

We should generate the business plan for PURA and evolve methodologies for creating a statistical model with continuous upgrading capability that would facilitate:

� Creation of data base of core competencies and comparative advantages in the chosen region.

� Estimation of the cost of implementing PURA

� measures of quantitatively establishing the economic prosperity of people before and after PURA is implemented

� economic returns and self sustainability

� marketing methods for making the PURA self-sustaining and to attracting investments


Role of statistics in a Society

Statistics is an area where there are many challenging problems waiting to be solved. Particularly, for a country like India, where the dynamics of demography is of paramount importance.

In the planet earth, India is the only democratic nation having a population of billion people. The population growth rate is very high in India it is more than 3 per 1000, whereas the well-balanced society needs to have 1.1 per 1000. In such a situation, the demography has a very important role and it needs continuous monitoring and the possible solution that has to come from a mathematical statistical simulated model, validated in real-time periodically. The mathematical challenge is indeed really complex since diverse demographic variants are unique to our population.


Spotting the unspottable

Solving such problems through statistical modeling requires a large number of young brilliant minds to take up research in statistics and make it as a profession and way of living. For this to happen, the renowned statisticians have an important role to play, they not only must encourage the identified talents in the students, but also be able to spot the brilliant Ramanujan?s in the nascent stage itself, much before any one else in the world spots them. And these could be from unknown corners of the country and at times a diamond waiting to be cut and made into a jewel.

I would like to narrate a story. A young man, Loveligen, from a remote area of Kerala, who could not complete PUC, wrote to me saying that he has discovered a new mathematical theory and he would like to talk to me. I saw in the letter that the boy was very sincere. Since he has written to me, I thought our specialist team could study his work and direct him to the right type of researchers. I called this boy to Delhi for a few days. What surprised us was that he had arrived at part of the equations of the Ramanujan?s number theory, which this boy was not at all aware of. He had discovered something and added some new points to it and the result is new. To a great extent the achievements in the field of mathematics generally seem to come out of a desire to look into the beautiful aspects of nature, including natural phenomena such as the star studded skies, which have always interested the astronomers from time immemorial. An additional contributory factor seems to be an inherent drive towards recognition of patterns even if it were in the sense of mathematical sequences or series.

It is interesting to note that Loveligen has currently delved into the equally exciting topic of power sequences and series. What I felt was that he needed a good mathematical education or a patronage of a good mathematics teacher. It is like having Prof Hardy for Ramanujan, the mathematics genius to come. I asked this boy, why he didn?t meet a mathematics teacher. He said, meeting a mathematics teacher is an expedition. He says, it is below their dignity to meet somebody who is not even a graduate. How do we promote this kind of young and enthusiastic minds? Can our teachers and philanthropists or the social activists spot these buds to blossom? Those who spot such talents and make them blossom will themselves be a different kind of a flower as described in the Bhagwad Gita: ?See the flower, how generously it distributes its perfume and its honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower unassuming despite all its qualities?. What a beautiful message for all generations of this Nation.



It is reported that during the Second World War, the German Enigma Military Machine required a combination of mathematics, statistics, computational ability and inspired innovation to break. The breaking of Enigma took place in multiple steps. The knowledge of the steps made it possible for the Poles build doubles of the Enigma which then made it possible for them to read German enciphered radio communication. This resulted in the breaking the unbreakable access code by mathematicians and statisticians saving many lives.

In the knowledge society with a strong information technology base, the national banking and communication system have to become nearly unbreakable encrypted message flow as a function of time. This is definitely a challenge to the mathematical community particularly the statisticians to work with cryptographic community and become a partner in the economic development. In addition to the above, I would suggest that the statistical community to undertake the detailed studies on the occurrence of Tsunami (���I) phenomenon in different parts of the world and its impact and suggest the integrated prediction and warning methods in partnership with meteorological and geological groups of the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. The results could benefit many countries in the world.

I inaugurate the seminar on International Conference on the Future of Statistical Theory, Practice and Education and wish the participants all success in their statistical missions.

My best wishes. May God Bless you.




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