World-recognised scientist leading Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB)

Published on May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

World-recognised scientist leading Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB)

World-recognised scientist leading Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB)

LAHORE: Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Dr Umar Saif, is a young innovator and leading computer scientist, who is known for his work on using ICT solutions for developing-world problems.

In August last year, the American Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had named Umar Saif as one of the world’s top young innovators for 2011. Umar brought glory to Pakistan on several occasion in the past as well.

Technologies developed by Dr. Saif’s research group and start-ups are used by Millions of people in the developing-world, especially BitMate, that enhances the speed of Internet in the developing-world using peer-to-peer technology, and SMSall.pk, Pakistan’s largest SMS Social Network which has sent close to 4 Billion SMS for users in Pakistan. Saif attended Aitchison College, Lahore, Pakistan. This was followed by three years at Lahore University of Management Sciences where he studied for his BSc. in Computer Science. He received his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge when he was only 22 years old. Saif also worked and taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2001–2005) before moving back to Pakistan.

Dr. Umar Saif received his academic training from LUMS, Cambridge and MIT. He did his BSc (Hons) from LUMS (1998), PhD from University of Cambridge (2001) and Postdoctorate from MIT (2002), all in Computer Science. Dr. Saif worked and taught at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) as a research scientist for four years, where he was part of the group (O2S) that developed system technologies for project Oxygen — a US$28 million project sponsored by the US Department of Defense (DARPA) and an industrial Alliance of world-class companies including Nokia, HP, Compaq, NTT DoCommo, Phillips, Acer and Delta.
While at MIT, Dr. Saif also managed the multi-million dollar collaboration on future computing technologies between University of Cambridge and MIT sponsored by the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) and a consortium of hightech British companies.
Dr. Saif’s research interests broadly span areas of Ubiquitous Computing, Distributed Systems, Mobile Systems, Network Protocols and Architectures and ICT for developing world countries. Dr. Saif has authored several influential publications and is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. Dr. Saif’s research has been featured in popular media, including BBC, New Scientist, MIT Technology Review, Distributed Systems Online, and Dawn News. His research has received grants from Microsoft Research (MSR), Oxygen Consortium at MIT, Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), US State Department/USAID, HEC and PITB.

Dr. Saif was selected as a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum in 2010. Dr. Saif received the MIT Technovator Award in 2008, Mark Weiser Award at IEEE Percom’08, Digital Inclusion Award from Microsoft Research in 2006 and the IDG CIO Technology Pioneer Award in 2008. During his doctorate studies, Dr .Saif was a Trinity College Overseas Scholar and Commonwealth Scholar at University of Cambridge.

Dr. Saif has (co-)founded four technology startups: BumpIn.com (contextual chatting), SeeNreport.com (citizen journalism), ChOpaal.pk (SMS social networking) and TicketMy.com (event tickets). Dr. Saif is the founder of one of the first startup incubators in Lahore, Pakistan, called SCI.

Umar Saif is a Pakistani computer scientist and entrepreneur, who is known for his work on using ICT solutions for developing-world problems. Saif holds a BSc. from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and PhD in Computer Science from University of Cambridge, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar at Trinity College. Saif is a tenured associate professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan and established one of the first startup incubators in Pakistan, called the Saif Center of Innovation (SCI).[13] Saif’s work on grassroots technologies received the MIT Technovator Award[14] in 2008 and he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010
In August 2011, the MIT Technology Review named Saif among its list of the 35 “World’s Top Young Innovators for the year 2011″. The list recognises the works of the world’s top young innovators that are radically transforming technology; it was also the first time in the past decade that a Pakistani had been featured. By featuring in the list, Saif now joins an elite group of researchers and technologists including the likes of Google’s Sergey Brin and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Saif attended Aitchison College, Lahore, Pakistan. This was followed by three years at Lahore University of Management Sciences where he studied for his BSc. in Computer Science. He received his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge when he was only 22 years old[citation needed] . Saif worked and taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 2001–2005 before moving back to Pakistan. At MIT, Saif worked at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory where he was part of the core team that developed system technologies for the $50 Million Project Oxygen. He also managed the $5 Million collaboration between University of Cambridge and MIT, funded by Cambridge-MIT Institute, on Pervasive Computing technologies. Saif’s work on Pervasive Computing received the prestigious Mark Weiser Award in 2008.

Saif is a tenured Associate Professor at the LUMS School of Science and Engineering. The school is modeled along the lines of the world’s leading tech universities such as MIT and Caltech and is expected to produce a new generation of scientists and engineers, to help transform the economic and technical landscape of Pakistan.  At LUMS, Saif runs the Dritte Initiative,[21] focused on using technology to solve the problems in the developing-world. Saif’s research in ICTD is funded by a Microsoft Research Digital Inclusion Award  and a grant by the US State Department (in collaboration with the TIER group at UC Berkeley).
Saif and his students developed BitMate, a BitTorrent client designed for the low-bandwidth clients in the developing-world. BitMate has been downloaded more than 30,000 times by users from 173 countries.  BitMate doubles the performance of low-bandwidth clients while drastically improving their fairness (upload capacity) by enabling low-bandwidth peers to help each other download faster.

Saif has co-founded several startups at his incubator SCI. Two of his startups have played an important role in supporting civil society during political turbulence and natural disasters in the recent times in Pakistan. Saif co-founded See`n`Report , Pakistan’s first citizen journalism service, during the political turmoil (and subsequent media bans) at the tail-end of the Musharraf era. Amidst media bans, See`n`report was used by civil society activists to report eyewitness accounts, using their cell-phones, during the historic lawyer’s movement.See`n`Report’s platform is now used by leading news and TV channels in Pakistan (and elsewhere) to run citizen journalism initiatives, including Geo TV (GeoDost)[33] and Samaa TV (iSamaa). See`n`report was used by reporters and NGOs to report events live during the massive floods in Pakistan in 2010. Saif is also the co-founder of ChOpaal.pk, Pakistan’s first mobile social network. ChOpaal (now called SMSall) is one of the fastest growing SMS networks in Pakistan, used by hundreds of thousands of people to stay in touch, coordinate relief efforts and enable mobile communities. Over 4 Billion SMS have been sent using SMSall in Pakistan.

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