Dr. Umar Saif is a force to be reckoned with in the tech sector of Pakistan. If you’re involved with the startup culture, technology sector or the government in Punjab, specifically, you’ve definitely heard of this man who’s known for his work ethic and his humble demeanor. He’s the chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board, among other things, and has famously been reforming the Government of Punjab by introducing latest technology to various sectors.
But did you know about all his extraordinary achievements that he’s fought so hard to make a reality for Pakistan? Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Dr. Saif:
1. He’s led an initiative to make sure there are no ghost schools in Punjab anymore
The epidemic of ghost schools is prevalent all over the country and Punjab was no different. Being the most populous province of the country, the high number of ghost schools in Punjab were a disservice to such a large number of bright young minds. Dr. Umar Saif’s initiative to have independent inspectors visit and monitor schools across Punjab and update their performance through the use of simple technology like tablet computers has helped eradicate ghost schools from the province.
Punjab doesn’t have a single ghost school anymore — but what about learning, you asked? Today we are making the literacy and numeracy data from Punjab public at: https://t.co/4e3YeKlELO. This data is generated from 49 milllipn tablet-based geotagged quizzes from all across Punjab pic.twitter.com/lMISxIkSr0
— Umar Saif (@umarsaif) March 30, 2018
2. 97% of children in Punjab are vaccinated against common diseases thanks to a mobile app championed by Dr. Saif
Healthcare is a big challenge for any developing country and Pakistan’s no different. However, in 2014, Dr. Saif’s Punjab IT Board developed technology to help improve Punjab’s 25% vaccination coverage. Vaccinators used a smartphone app to report location and data on children, making them accountable for their own performance. Satellite images of urban settlements were then used to deepen the coverage. Punjab’s vaccination coverage now stands at an impressive 97%.
3. He launched a Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program that has been so effective that it was replicated by Albania and Romania
The Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program is a tech-based initiative that solicits feedback from common citizens who avail public services to collect their feedback regarding their experience. The feedback collected is used to tackle problem areas and assist relevant officials in various levels of the provincial government to take corrective measures.
4. His famous ‘dengue-fighting initiative’ has helped Punjab fight dengue from more than 21000 patients in 2011 to virtually none anymore
With the help of an android app and a dashboard that was used by monitoring teams to maintain data and records, Dr. Saif’s team was able to prevent the dengue epidemic in the province.
“The focus is on three big interventions: giving smartphones to field staff responsible for identifying and cleaning mosquito-breeding hotspots, actively looking for aedes larvae in neighborhoods to help predict outbreaks, and using hospital data to identify dengue patients so that the health department could move in quickly to their homes and neighborhoods for indoor residual spraying to kill mosquitoes,” Dr. Saif said while speaking to Hindustan Times about the initiative, back in 2014.
5. He has helped improve tracing terrorist activities as soon as they happen in Punjab
The Punjab IT Board, under the supervision of Dr. Saif, has helped the Punjab Police identify terrorist activity as soon as it happens via smartphones that are used by those terrorists. This is done by helping the police to obtain call records quickly within a specific geo-fenced zone that is identifiable thanks to the PITB’s technological support.
6. His team has launched the ‘Rasta’ mobile app to help citizens better navigate the roads
The app is an extensive traffic and driving management related mobile app that facilitates people with regards to things like traffic advisory and route planning, challan payment, e-license facilities and giving feedback and registering complaints regarding traffic situation.
7. In 2012, he developed Pakistan’s first technology incubator, the Plan 9
Dr. Saif has always been a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit among young people and to facilitate all such enterprising individuals he developed the country’s first technology incubator that has spawned multiple other incubators all over the country. Dr. Saif himself is now also part of a TV competition show that allows interested people to pitch their startup in front of investors and win financial backing to make their dreams a reality.
8. He was featured as one of the world’s top 35 young innovators
In 2011, Dr. Saif was featured on MIT’s TR35 list which listed 35 young innovators from around the world. He was the first Pakistani to be featured on the list.
9. He earned his PhD from Cambridge University at just 22 years of age
Getting my PhD from Cambridge; about 14 years ago … pic.twitter.com/Bt2Ej6MMuR
— Umar Saif (@umarsaif) October 14, 2015
Having previously studied at Aitchison College and LUMS, in Pakistan, Dr. Saif earned his PhD in Computer Science from Cambridge University at the young age of 22. He then went on to obtain a post-graduate degree from MIT before embarking on his professional career.
10. He became the youngest Vice Chancellor of any university in Pakistan in 2013
Upon his appointment as the Vice Chancellor of Information Technology University in Lahore, Dr. Saif became the youngest Vice Chancellor of any university in the country.
11. After surviving a near-death experience, he still continues to dedicate his time and energies to serving Pakistan
In 2017 he was attacked by a sniper in his 19th floor office at the Arfa Technology Software Park in Lahore. He said that his wife told him to move out of the country because no amount of work was above his life but he continues to dedicate himself for his country.
Cover image via: Extraordinary Pakistanis / Facebook